FIVE teenage girls seen asleep in a city shop doorway early last Saturday morning have sparked fresh concerns about the youth problem on Gisborne streets late at night.
Witnesses were shocked to see the 14 to 15-year-olds sleeping in the doorway of a shop in Treble Court and one witness said they were there at 4am.
“The girls looked very vulnerable sleeping where they were, just sprawled on the ground,” said another witness.
“Kids like that are asking for trouble.”
Police area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said he would ensure patrols go through places like Treble Court more often.
The witnesses said the girls roused themselves at about 6am and went on their way.
“You’ve got to ask yourself — what were they doing out so late? Where are their parents?”
Inspector Aberahama said it absolutely raised concerns.
“Young people in the CBD in the early hours of the morning raise real concerns around their safety, and the safety of the public in general.”
It caused police problems, from breaches of the liquor ban to disorder and assaults, he said.
“A situation like this one with the girls provides opportunities for criminals.
“They are potential victims for sex crimes and other violence offences.”
Police ran “Operation Sweep” for six weeks before Christmas in an attempt to crack down on the number of young people out and about in the central city late at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.
“During the operation, offending in the CBD dropped big-time,” Insp Aberahama said.
Police and volunteers rounded up the youth and took them home.
Chairman of the Community Patrols group in Gisborne, Phil Derbyshire, said patrol members regularly saw up to 30 young people out very late at night in the city, ranging in age from 12 upwards.
“We see concerning numbers of them out too late and when we see them we report it to police.
“We are an eyes and ears service only, and don’t have people actually walking the streets. Our patrol members are in vehicles,” Mr Derbyshire said.
“Some of our members have joined the community patrols because of the concerns they have for our young people. As parents, and members of this community, it concerns us all.”
Insp Aberahama said it was really important that parents knew where their kids were.
“Some tell lies to their parents about where they are going.
“They say they are staying at a friend’s house and they never do.”
Mr Derbyshire said it entirely came down to whanau.
“Parents have a responsibility to know where their children are.
“I’m going to ensure that our patrols will are more observant in areas like Treble Court during the night and into the early morning from now on,” Insp Aberahama said.
“But parents and whanau have to contribute more to community safety too, by knowing where their kids are and making sure they are safe.
“If you’re out in the city and see a situation like the one last Saturday morning with those girls, please give us a call.
“They were potential victims.”