Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Early Days of Avondale's Law and Order

The Police

Avondale prior to 1906 had no purpose-built police base. Instead, the district came under the wider area of West Auckland, which extended up to Kaukapapa. By 1905, one Constable O’Grady was stationed at Avondale, although to date I haven’t been able to find out exactly where.

In that same year, a young woman named Rose Thomas, aged 18, was attacked about 200 metres from the then Avondale Hotel and grabbed by the throat by a man who had “rushed upon her out of the darkness, caught her by the throat, and making an improper suggestion threatened to blow her brains out with a revolver, which she said he held in his hand at the time.”

After dragging her down the road her down the road and throwing her into a ditch, he would have done much worse if not for some ladies who were walking by and disturbed him. He ran off but Miss Thomas “made a complaint to a passer-by, and information of the assault was conveyed to Constable O’Grady, who is stationed at Avondale. He saw Miss Thomas, and gathered a description of her assailant from her. Yesterday Inspector Cullen received information of the arrest of a young man who resides at Avondale, who, Miss Thomas alleged, was the man who assaulted her. He will be brought up at the Police Court this morning.” [NZ Herald, 30/1/1905]

The first purpose-built Avondale Police Station was erected on Great North Road, next to Page’s Building, in 1906. Initially there were 3 separate buildings: constables residence & office (still standing), lockup and stable. The District Engineer of the time, in charge of the work, was C. R. Vickerman, while the builder was Robert Kay. Total cost was £740. Dressed timber for the buildings was supplied from Government mills at Kakahi. The land was purchased on 28/8/1903 in preparation for the building.

Constable O‘Grady reported, “that the section purchased by the Police Department at Avondale for Police Quarters would be very accommodating for Troop horse here by it being fenced, as the present stable yard where he runs when out of stable is very small and of no comfort.” [“Report of Constable Thos. O’Grady, No. 649, relative to Police Station at Avondale suitable for Troop Horse accommodation by being fenced,” 15/12/1903, National Archives. Both items from Mike Butler report, Heritage Planning, 2001]

Rangers and Traffic Officers

In the 1880s, it was not easy being the Ranger. This was an unpopular position, despite being one of the first of the paid positions under the Avondale Road Board’s control. The Board expected the Ranger to stop cattle and horses straying into the roads, while the populace at large strongly objected to seeing their stock impounded for such misdemeanours. It was a common practice for farmers in the district to let their stock roam at will, grazing along the roadsides. In June 1887, there was a strong protest against impounding of cattle, and the Board capitulated for a time.

The Ranger was also expected to keep an eye out for human nuisances as well – gumdiggers seeking gum by digging up the public roads were warned off by prominent notices put up, and that the Ranger stood to earn £1 for each conviction.

By the end of 1887, the Ranger was Mr John Lupton, who lasted in the job only two years. Next came John Ellington who left by February 1890, after several run-ins with locals, replaced by Mr Owen McGuise.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Board and the Ranger expected full co-operation from the police constable of the time (Constable Crean, and his successors), in prosecuting owners of straying horses and cattle.

By the early 1920s, the Avondale Borough Council altered the position of Ranger to incorporate two further roles: that of Noxious Weeds Inspector and Traffic Inspector. The only man to fulfill all three roles during the period of the Borough (1922-1927) was George Thomas Chandler from October 1924, earning £1 per week for each position. As Traffic Inspector, Chandler was in charge of policing the speed limit (15 mph in the Shopping Centre), parking (no parking allowed on Great North Road after the concreting in 1925), no smoking on buses in the Avondale Borough, and by-laws related to vehicle lights.

As the Ranger, he frequently had differences with Constable Douglas of the Avondale Police Station regarding Douglas’ cow being impounded. These led to “foul words” and a civil action, ending with the Borough Council demanding the removal of Constable Douglas by the Commissioner of Police. It is uncertain whether they were successful with their appeal to the Commissioner.

From 1927, after amalgamation with Auckland City, traffic regulations in Avondale were policed by Auckland City Council’s own traffic enforcement division.

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