Neighbourhood watch schemes were first set up in 1982 and were designed to make communities safer. They bring together the local community with the police local authority safety departments and any other interested parties, with the aim of making your local neighbourhood a better and safer place to live. They were originally set up as a result of a need to bring both communities and the police closer together.
For obvious reasons of resources and manpower, the police can’t respond to every little incident which is reported directly to them. Furthermore, neighbourhood watch schemes are able to see trends developing or worrying signs of activities that start affecting the community, usually before any crime or anti-social behaviour has been committed. Therefore, by working in tandem with the police and appropriate local authority staff, preventative action can be taken before a particular problem gets out of hand and can also then be monitored.
Awareness and education are both at the top of the agenda and the scheme aims to help people become more vigilant, to offer mutual support, to take more interest in improving your own home’s security and to keep the police informed about any criminal acts or suspicious activities you may witness as well as other issues such as anti-social behaviour. By promoting good communication promptly and accurately, a good neighbourhood watch scheme enables local communities to not only reduce crime but reduce the fear of crime, especially amongst some of its more vulnerable people.
Usually a concerted effort and commitment by all the residents of a particular street, a neighbourhood watch scheme will usually involve everybody getting together maybe every couple of months or so at one of the resident’s homes or local community centre. This will be arranged by the Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator – the person that’s been nominated by all of the other residents and who has accepted the role of being the main liaison between the police, local authority and the local community itself. This would usually involve meeting with the police’s local crime prevention officer who would be able to help in giving advice to get a scheme up and running.
Responsibilities of a Co-ordinator
Responsibilities would include regular liaison with the crime prevention officer to discuss any issues that are concerning local residents and for the officer to impart any useful information about any possible problem areas which the police have already identified that the residents might not be aware of.
The co-ordinator’s duties will also be to circulate newsletters and details of any meetings to other scheme members as well as providing them with crime prevention literature and stickers which they can display in windows and doors, stating that they live in a designated Neighbourhood Watch area.
They should also personally speak to residents individually from time to time to see if they’re putting crime prevention measures into practice and to advise them on things they might have missed which they may wish to consider – things such as security devices, locks, invisible markers for personal belongings etc. They should also pay particular attention to visiting more vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly, to check up on them and to give advice on things like how to deal with callers who knock at the door, etc. The co-ordinator should also make it a point to visit new residents who may have moved into the local community to introduce themselves and to tell them all about the local Neighbourhood Watch scheme and to ask them if they’d like to join.
Depending on the size of your local scheme, it may be that you need more than one co-ordinator to keep things manageable and to prevent you taking on too much responsibility. After all, it’s in everyone’s interests to live in a safe, secure and peaceful neighbourhood.
If you are considering starting off a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, the best thing would be to talk to a local community police officer or your local MP and also contact the UK Neighbourhood Watch Trust which was set up in 2006 to promote secure and confident communities. Their website contains useful information and is also the place to go if you want to find out your nearest Neighbourhood Watch group.