It’s hard to believe that two years ago today we kicked off with a hiss and a roar. It’s a reminder of how time slips by so quickly when you are consumed with such a fast paced, varied environment such as working here at SelectaDNA.
I remember starting my very first day, well before 1 September 2009, and directors Graham Zuill and David Morrissey were talking about this stuff that glowed blue. Who was to know how things would progress from just small talk, to action, to the absolute freight train that runs constantly through these office walls. May I just add at this early point that the train essentially stays the same; it’s the amount of carriages that differ.
The action started with the Police. They had to be on board with the concept of SelectaDNA in order for it to be a success. At the end of the day – if the Police aren’t looking for it, what’s the point? Making my way to my first meeting with the Police I didn’t really know what to expect, and then I met Jason. Inspector Jason Hewett was charged with leading the Police side of things with the launch of SDNA. He was so enthusiastic about the project – yes about the product, but more about what it would mean for communities across the country.
From these initial meetings, the 6 month trial was born. 1000 homes and businesses in a predetermined ring fenced area were to receive SelectaDNA kits and crime rates would be monitored to see what, if any, reduction occurred.
It was the Police in consultation with the Manukau City Council who chose Randwick Park as the place to hold this project. It’s a low socio-economic area but on driving around it, it’s almost like a tale of two cities. One side has new housing in it, and the other is older and tired. This was the area where local business owner Navtej Singh was murdered, and it was somewhat eerie that when you drive by his liquor store, that is still trading, that on surface value it looked almost as if nothing had happened.
But the residents knew better. And with their desire for a better neighbourhood for their families, the project was never in doubt.
The lead up to launch day was frantic at best. I don’t think anybody knew if they were Arthur or Martha. Moving into new offices was just the icing on the cake but once in the hard work began. 5,000 kits had to be put together so that there was enough kits for Randwick Park trial, for the BNZ, so that they could retail the kits in store, and of course for us here as stock. We had all the stickers ready, we had the packaging on pallets in the warehouse and we had the DNA solution from the UK. The only thing we didn’t have was the UV torches... and our freighter told us they weren’t going to make it in time.
It would have been far too easy if everything went according to plan. David was forced onto a quick flight to Hong Kong to uplift the goods, man handle them through customs, and then fly back home… over a 2 day period. No rest for the wicked! But he made it, 10,000 torches in hand, ready for insertion into the kits.
And then D-day dawned. Volunteers from Victim Support, the BNZ, Maori Wardens and Police gathered in the Alfriston College Auditorium in the heart of Randwick Park. The place was buzzing. The team was briefed, logged in and then sent on their way to start the delivery process. Meanwhile, media arrived and the launch was officially on. Counties Manukau Mayor Len Brown led proceedings, and man did he lead. I’d never heard him speak before and he didn’t disappoint. We made the first segment of the 6 o’clock news on TV One. We were rapt – what magnificent coverage in the media!
But despite all the speakers in the auditorium, and being on the TV, it was really those out on the pavements that made the biggest impact. All the volunteers that personally delivered the kits to every home in Randwick Park were the face of the project. They made all the residents feel as though they had a sense of hope for their future.
When out and about on the streets over that delivery week, Graham spoke to an elderly maori lady called Florence Karanga – Flo. Without realizing it, Flo said the most poignant statement of the whole project. She said that she knew, whatever was stolen, she’d get back. That she’d “never felt safe, until now.” It was heartwarming to know that our little box of goo could mean that much.
6 months later, and it was results day. 61.8% reduction in crime in Randwick Park. Proud as punch were we. Remember how I said residents desired a better neighbourhood. It seems that we helped them on their way.
But the SelectaDNA freight train definitely hasn’t stopped there. Since then we’ve been all over the upper north island with the BNZ Safer Schools Programme. Over 700 schools now use SelectaDNA to protect their facilities. Eventually schools across the entire country will receive a complimentary SelectaDNA kit thanks to funding by the BNZ. At the same time, our technicians have covered the entire network of BNZ stores nationwide installing the Hydra System. Next week is the launch of a commercial project (watch this space) and there are other ventures brewing too.
On reflection we’ve achieved a lot in our 2 years, but it’s just the beginning… hang on, I can hear the words “I’ve got an idea”… I guess that means another carriage has been added to the train.
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