Copyright © www.matangitonga.to WORKING together with the public to crack down on crimes in order to achieve safer communities, is the focus of a National Community Policing Coordination Centre, opened at the main Police Station compound in Longolongo on August 31. The national centre which offers police services to the community of Kolofo’ou comes under a Community Policing Strategy established by Tonga Police on the notion that interacting with the community and getting their support can help control and reduce crime and increase public confidence in police work. Police Commander Chris Kelley in an opening address in the ceremony on August 31 said the new centre would also be the main coordinating office for the community policing centres already established at Popua, Kolovai, Lapaha and Fua’amotu. Community Policing Centres manned by police officers provide a place for the community to come to and discuss with law enforcement officers new ideas on how to better the safety of their communities. Kolofo’ou A Kolofo’ou community constable would also be appointed for the centre. In the meantime the police also intend to open five more community policing posts in ‘Eua, Ha’apai, Vava’u and Tongatapu in the next 12 months. The national centre is housed at the former residence of the Chief Fire Officer and was renovated in the cost of $60,000 pa’anga. It has a separate gate on the Eastern side facing Teufaiva Stadium aimed to make it easier for the public to enter. “Community policing is a policing approach that involves problem solving in partnership with the community in order to improve safety. It is fundamental in how we police are accountable to the community we serve,” he said. Development The Community Policing Strategy comes under the Tonga Police Development TPDP, a tri-partite program between Tonga and the governments of New Zealand and Australia to assist in redeveloping the Tonga Police. The TPDP has over $5 million pa’anga in assistance and finances 21 projects of which community policing is one. Another project under the program is a new Police Station at Vaini to be opened next week at a cost of $900,000 pa’anga. The guest of honour at the ceremony was Noble Fakafanua. Copyright © www.matangitonga.to _
Police and Crime
A complaint under the Official Secrets Act by a Chief Executive Officer of a Government Ministry that information was being unofficially released, led police to seize four computers from the Finance ministry’s Budget Division office last week.
All four computers seized by Tonga Police from the Budget Division of Tonga’s Ministry of Finance and Planning on Monday were returned to the ministry this afternoon, August 27.
In a police raid on Tonga’s Ministry of Finance and Planning on Monday August 23 four computers were seized from the Budget Division, on the first floor of the Tonga Development Building.
Two prison escapees were recaptured at 9:00 am today at Ma’ufanga after armed police squads mounted overnight road blocks on Tongatapu.
A series of violent incidents erupting in the capital Nuku’alofa over the weekend saw students fighting in central Nuku’alofa while another brawl in a Vuna Road bar left a security guard hospitalised.
Armed police are continuing the search for two escaped prisoners after shots were fired at a Prison guard outside the Hu’atolitoli Prison compound on Saturday night, August 21.
TONGA’S Police Commander Chris Kelley has ordered an inquiry into Tonga’s prison escapes saying today that it is of serious concern to the police that over the past eight weeks 13 escapes were reported to them. Most escapees had been recaptured while two remained at large. A police operation has searched houses and locations day and night over the past weeks in the search for Sione Movete Uatekini (24) of Tatakamotonga and Peni ‘Inia (20) of Tu’anuku, Vava’u, residing at Ma’ufanga, who escaped the “maximum security” house at Hu’atolitoli Prison on July 22. The Police Unit at Fua’amotu International Airport is on alert for the two men while surveillance is being carried out around the Nuku’alofa port. “But we have no evidence that the prisoners have left Tonga at this point in time. We presume they are still here in Tongatapu and we are continuing to look for them,” said Cmdr Kelley The fact that they are prisoners posed a real threat and risk to the community and a result, the Commander said he had ordered an inquiry to look into the matter. “The main concern for me is the bigger picture and I have ordered an inquiry to the escapes and assigned a senior police officer to inquire into how and why these escapes are occurring and whether we could lay further charges and what offences have been committed.” He said the police inquiry would interview firstly the recaptured escapees to determine the means of escape, what they did while they were on the run and what information and evidence of offences they might have committed. Response Group Commander Kelley said when escapes were reported to them they activated a Technical Response Group of 21, which they do not deploy at one time. Although he did not want to disclose detail of their operational tactics in their pursuit of the two escapees as it might alert them, he reassured the public that the police are actively looking for the escapees. Responsibility The Commander said that the responsibility for prisoners lies with the prison and the Superintendent of Prisons and in recent times there had been a number of escapes both from minimum security prisons and from the more secure areas. But he was happy that the recovery of previous escapees had been quite good since they found them in a short period after their escapes, a joint effort in conjunction with prison officers. A systematic search meant they were putting in a lot of effort from their resources and manpower, he said. “I am confident that these two prisoners at large will be located but what concerns me more is the fact they are escaping and why they are escaping and that is a matter for the prison to look at”, the Commander said.
By Linny Folau TWO prison escapees are still on the run this week, as escapes from Tonga’s main prison, Hu’atolitoli at Vaini, have hit record levels with 33 escapes by 10 prisoners over the past seven months, the highest ever recorded in Tonga’s prison history. Two male prisoners have been at large for four weeks today, after breaking out of the “maximum security” part of the prison where they picked the lock then cut through a high barbed wire fence to walk free at 11:30pm on July 22. The pair of escapees, Sione Movete Uatekini (24) of Tatakamotonga and Peni ‘Inia (20) of Tu’anuku, Vava’u, residing at Ma’ufanga, serving four to six year sentences for theft and housebreaking offences since 2008, had broken out of prison numerous times in the last couple of months. Call 922 Deputy Police Commander Taniela Faletau yesterday urged the public to come forward with information that may lead to their recapture and he cautioned members who might be harbouring criminals that this is an offence. The police have set up a free telephone number 922 for the public to contact if they have any information that may lead to the recapture of these prisoners. Five escapes Frustrated prison administrators said today that from February to July, Sione had escaped five times, while Peni had escaped twice, firstly on July 2 and then again on July 22. Sione escaped twice while he was admitted to the Psychiatric Ward at Vaiola Hospital for a mental examination in February. His third escape was while working on the prison plantation and the fourth escape from one of the prison houses last month. Peni who escaped from one of the prison houses on July 2 was caught a few days later and put in the maximum security prison with Sione where they both broke out again on July 22. Old prison The maximum security prison is a cement house containing four cells with a tin roof, surrounded by a high barbed wire fence situated in the centre of the prison compound lawn. The other lock-up are small houses located outside the maximum security prison fence with only barbed wire windows and locked doors. Stressed prison guards are counting the days until they can move prisoners to a newly built concrete cell block, which is expected to be completed this year. Superintendent of Prisons Sione Falemanu told Matangi Tonga today, August 18, that the main difficulty is that the existing prison housing, which now holds over 100 prisoners is too old and they cannot safely lock-up prisoners. He said the whole compound itself is not secure, including the front entrance, which does not have a high gate apart from one guard house and prisoners could easily escape onto the main road. A shortage of prison guards at Hu’atolitoli is a another problem. “We have only 12 guards working in the compound now and we are lucky if we could have up to three officers on shift daily. “So imagine three guards manning 100 prisoners - it is far too little, we have requested for additional guards but nothing has been done so we are trying to manage the best we can because we know the importance of our job to keep prisoners locked up in order to maintain the safety of the public, he said. The Superintendent said that prisoners are overcrowded in the existing compound. “The move to our new high security prison built on the compound is imminent and I am hoping that by next week we would relocate there since there are only some minor works to be done,” he said. Record break-outs At the same time, Prison Officer Pili Tofavaha who is in charge of the prison records confirmed that 2010 has now recorded the highest number of escapes. In 2009 alone, there were only about 10 escapes, which is a dramatic jump to the 33 escapes this year, he said. Ten prisoners were involved in the escapes with some of them getting out numerous time. Pili said the prison officers had been accused of not doing their job properly, which they accepted but he said they are facing many problems and difficulties that have resulted in the escapes. Prisoners could easily break through the deteriorating walls of the old buildings or pick the locks, he said. Other prisoners break out from the prison housing by removing deteriorating bricks on the wall or cutting through barbed wire . He said in addition there are just too many prisoners for the officers on duty and they could easily just break out without the guard knowing since there might be only three guards on duty on that night for 100 prisoners. “The truth of the matter is that the prison is like a disguise, it’s only the law that is keeping the prisoners from escaping, the compound is no problem for them to escape from,” he said. He said they are looking forward to moving to the new high security prison compound that is modern and safer.
A 15-year-old girl from Ha’alaufuli drowned in Vava’u waters on August 11 after a small fishing vessel loaded with a funeral party of 39 people sank on its way from Neiafu to Ovaka Island.