Neighbourhood Watch is such a familiar term that it’s hard to believe that it only started in 1982. Today it covers some six million households and is the largest voluntary movement in the country. The idea is simple. Local people joining together to safeguard each other’s property. As most crime is opportunist, having a team of people working together in neighbourhoods is a powerful weapon in the fight against crime.
More than just burglary and car theft
However, it’s not all about burglaries and thefts from vehicles, the sorts of crime that Neighbourhood Watch schemes focus on these days include anti-social behaviour, vandalism and graffiti. The existence of such schemes also reassures people living in the area, fostering neighbourliness and a new community spirit. Instead of feeling powerless in the face of rising crime, local people believe that they have the power to improve the quality of life for everyone in their area. After all, you know your neighbourhood better than anyone.
Useful tips and advice
A Neighbourhood Watch scheme helps you find out which crimes most concern local people and lets you focus on a specific problem. It may be that the pensioners in your neighbourhood are particularly vulnerable to street crime and burglaries, in which case you’ll be working with other organisations such as Help the Aged.
You’ll also get tips on how to keep your home and belongings safe, how to fit more secure door or window locks in vulnerable homes, or how to go about lobbying the local authority to improve street lighting, for instance.
Houses that have been burgled are more likely to be hit again, often within a matter of weeks. This is because the criminals know the property’s weak points, its layout and contents. A local Neighbourhood Watch scheme puts up a cocoon around such homes, which simply means that everyone’s on red alert and ready to report anything suspicious to the police. Such ‘cocoons’ can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a repeat burglary. Better still, you won’t be alone in your efforts to reduce crime in your local area as the police can give you up-to-date crime figures and expert advice.
How to get involved
It may be that a Neighbourhood Watch scheme already exists in your area so check with your local police station. If there isn’t one, you can set up a new one by contacting the Crime Prevention Co-ordinator at your local police station. He or she will give you the information you need to get things started. Ask the National Neighbourhood Watch Association for an information pack too.
First off, you’ll need to organise your first meeting with any neighbours who want to get involved and your local Crime Prevention Officer. To make sure people turn up give them plenty of notice and give everyone a reminder a few days before the meeting. Use that first meeting to find out what you’re all worried about and to decide what your aims are.
Every scheme needs a volunteer co-ordinator – someone who leads the group and makes sure things get done. Maybe someone else in your area has more time on their hands to take on the responsibility of co-ordinating the scheme and you’d rather take a back seat once it’s up and running. Most important of all, let everyone know that it’s entirely up to them how involved they are. That way people won’t be scared of giving up too much of their time.
You’ll be surprised at the effects a Neighbourhood Watch scheme can have. Not only will you be making your area a safer place to live but you’ll probably make lots of new friends in the process. To find out more about setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in your area see www.neighbourhoodwatch.net opens in a new window.