Thames parish upgrades security

5 Thames gate

A spate of petty crime has driven the installation of security cameras, solar lighting and an extra fence at St Francis of Assisi church in Thames.

Five new security cameras costing a total of $1060.25 have been installed at points on the church property outside the buildings, NZ Catholic understands.

Parish priest Fr Valerian D’Souza, OFMCap, said there has been a run of troubling incidents in recent months.

His car was broken into, with windows shattered. A man was seen urinating on the front of the church. Broken glass was spread over the lawn on the property — and this happened twice. The priest even witnessed two people engaging in carnal acts next to the presbytery.

There has been a run of troubling incidents in Thames this year, Fr D’Souza said. On one weekend, 25 cars were broken into at various points in the town, he added.

So, with the installation of the security cameras — footage from which can be viewed using a mobile phone — the solar lighting and a gated fence on a pathway between parish buildings (the path has been a popular thoroughfare between local landmarks), the troubling incidents seem to have stopped, Fr D’Souza said.

That was until two young girls were seen ringing a bell on the church property at 3am one morning recently, he added.

But he hopes the security measures will act as a deterrent going forward.

Nonetheless, the priest’s main worry is for elderly people who live alone in Thames. One widow was targeted recently, with jewellery stolen from her house and her car being taken, he said. Warnings about security have been issued by local police.

Fr D’Souza has heard that it might well be young teenagers who are committing these crimes — but the most they seem to receive is a reprimand from authorities.

“Someone was telling me these underage youth are used by the gangs maybe, possibly — I don’t know if this is true or not. Because they know they will not be punished for anything,” he said

This sort of offending is not new for the parish — a priest who previously worked there had his car broken into as well, Fr D’Souza said.

But it is disappointing. “I thought it was a peaceful town and that nobody is disturbing each other,” Fr D’Souza said.

If the offending at the parish resumes to any great degree, Fr D’Souza says he will likely approach civic authorities. He has already spoken with police.

Regional coordinator Robyn Smith said the offending is a sign of the times. She said that, once it was made known in the parish newsletter that funds were needed to pay for the security cameras, help was quick to come in.

“Yes, I put a little note like that in there and people just come forward,” she said. As of Labour weekend, $690.00 had been given towards the cost of the cameras.

A local doctor, who has some expertise in security measures, gave advice on the cameras, she added.

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Michael Otto

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