Jacqui Harman was home alone in Matavera with her two daughters, when she saw lights and heard noises from the vacant house next door.
Her husband was out spear-fishing with friends, and she was concerned. “It was about midnight,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t right – it made me feel uncomfortable.”
So she called Chris Denny and his firm, Cook Islands Security. The duty officer promised to be there in five minutes.
“He talked to them and dealt with the situation,” she said. “Then he called me from down the road, with an update.
“They said they were family – but the next day we woke up and they were gone. They got the message.”
Denny says it’s calls like these that have encouraged him to shift his company’s focus from tourist resort security to private homes. “With burglaries on the rise l am going to focus my patrol operation protecting homes, starting in two weeks.
“Things are only going to get worse with money running dry.”
He’s not the only one: Takitumu already has its own volunteer police, and last night, Vaima’anga also dedicated a village watch team
The Police Service had advised the new Vaima‘anga team on how they can work effectively with Police.
“It’s a good model to follow and the police are happy,” said Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt. Local security initiatives were a silver lining in the Covid-19 cloud, he said. Community support would make an impact on crime rates.
The Vaima’anga coordinator is Tuaine Papatua, a Blue Light advisor attached to the Police Service, who was brought on board by the community last month and has been building up toward’s last night’s ceremony, to dedicate their new vests.
There were 16 core members, he said, organised with schedules and activities to better safeguard the village area and all its residents.
Pitt said the group had already had a positive impact on its village, and provided a model for other villages around Rarotonga.
He has been quick to reassure the public, that there has not been any upsurge in break-ins. This weekend, he said, there were a few theft cases, including three motorbikes, “but no break-ins or prowlers reported”.
Chris Denny said the Cook Islands Security was not duplicating police services, but was about providing families with reassurance. Households could sign up for $2 a day, or $60 a month, and the service would begin on July 27.
“I have lost 90 per cent of my holiday accommodation clients so now l will focus on protecting families and their homes,” he said.
“There will no tourists for at least a year and, being in the security industry for many years, l know it’s human nature to do whatever it takes to survive.
“Because 90 per cent of our locals are addicted to cigarettes or alcohol it doesn't look promising.”
“It will be families with children that will most likely take up this service. Security is about preventing crime, rather than a reaction to crime like police.”
The police emergency number is 999, and the Cook Islands Security 24/7 help line is 199.