“ The UK's first Neighbourhood Watch was set up in Mollington, Cheshire, England in 1982. The Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the United Kingdom is a partnership where people come together to make their communities safer. It involves the Police, Community Safety departments of local authorities, other voluntary organisations and, above all, individuals and families who want to make their neighbourhoods better places to live. It aims to help people protect themselves and their properties and to reduce the fear of crime by means of improved home security, greater vigilance, accurate reporting of suspicious incidents to the police and by fostering a community spirit. „
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As a Street Co-Ordinator for Neighbourhood Watch,I can only speak from experience in our area.
Out of 20 Houses,our meetings consist of just 7 homes which is a sad state of affairs in my opinion.We are in the position where if there is a problem,they all come to me. This doesn't particularly bother me,but the attitude of one particular PCSO has left me in doubt as to whether to carry on this little charade.
On one occassion not too long ago,there was a car parked in our garage area with no number plates,and being aware that this is illegal to have a vehicle on any road without reg plates,I attempted to contact the police just in case it was used in a robbery etc.Needless to say I couldn't get an answer at the local Police Station so I contaced our local (nice) PCSO by email about the vehicle.
I didn't hear anything for a few days and decided to just leave it as it's soul destroying.
I eventually got an email from the nice PCSO who explained she was off sick and was waiting to go into hospital the next day,but she would pass the details onto the others for their attention.I wished her well and that was that.
The vehicle was parked round the corner but nothing was done about it so I gave up.
I received an email from the other PCSO, who just happens to be my biggest enemy on this earth.
She had sent an email to the nice PCSO stating that the vehicle was looked into prior to this and that an incident was reported at the time.
Added to this message was an attack on me which stated
"C..... makes me spit,and such a shame that she neglected to tell us that a close neighbour was growing cannibis!"
Let me state that the Cannibis Issue was rubbish,as my dear old neighbour had been approached by Addicts offering dope,that's all!
This email was deliberately sent to my email address,maybe by accident but nevertheless I received it and I went ballistic.
I reported this to the Police,and had to make a statement to the Sergeant,who had me send a copy to him and also he came and checked the format of my computer too.He asked what I wanted to do about this,and I just told him to tell her "Never darken my door again" which was done.
He spoke to her apparently and she was dragged over the coals for this unprofesssional behaviour but on requesting a written apology I was refused because "I never stated this at the time of making my statement!"
So,if anyone has any sort of experiences with NW,or the Police for that matter,make sure that you get it down in writing,otherwise you haven't a leg to stand on.
Trying to make the area safe for people and their possessions is so difficult and after this experience my heart has not been in this Voluntary Scheme at all.
NOSEY WARDENS -Despite the jokes about nosey Neighbourhood Watch wardens, in my area we decided to form our own group. I can assure you that we are vigilant, but far from the stereo typical image!
NEW DEVELOPMENT - Living on a new development forming the Neighbourhood Watch group took some time as not many of us knew each other. We had lived here a couple of years before we decided to take action. However, after several minor incidents of car break-ins and a couple of incidents of vandalism, another neighbour and myself decided to set up a NW. We had paid a lot of money for our houses and did not want crime to become part of our new neighbourhood, so set out to prevent it!
FIRST STEPS - First of all we contacted the local police who put us in touch with the Neighbourhood Watch Liaison Officer. He suggested that we put a flyer through letter boxes to see what the response was. We printed out a flyer, with a tear off slip, asking if people were interested and the response was overwhelming! (The police actually did the photocopying for us, free of charge).
SOCIAL GATHERING - The next step was to arrange a meeting with the Police NW guys and the neighbours. This was held in a local community hall, the room hire being paid for by the police. It was well attended by people in our estate and it was standing room only! One very positive outcome of the initial meeting was that, as new residents who had moved in at different times, we all had chance to get to know each other. It was rather like a social get together of new neighbours!
CRIME PREVENTION - The NW officer told us about local crime figures and typical crimes which occurred in the area. He then went on to tell us how to protect our property and had brought along various things which we could buy, (at reduced prices), such as special locks for doors and windows. He also gave us stickers to place in our windows advertising that we were a NW area and issued leaflets about how to make our homes more secure.
NW GROUPS - The next step was to form groups of about ten households with a co-ordinator for each of them. The co-ordinator is responsible for informing others in their group about any incidents. Initially this was done by a "ring round" system where the co-ordinator rings the first neighbour, who then passes the message onto the next until the last neighbour in the "ringround" rings the co-ordinator. That way it was ensured the message had been passed in a full circle.
CHINESE WHISPERS - However, we found this did not always work. Sometimes the message became almost like Chinese whispers where it became so mixed up that it was confusing! Or other times the message was not passed on and the co-ordinator had to ring everyone individually again. Therefore, we tried e mailing as most people have e mail addresses, and find that works much better.
REGULAR UPDATES - Every week the police liaison officers sends an e mail to each group co-ordinator, giving information about crime in the immediate area. If there is anything relevant to our estate this is then circulated to all the neighbours.
POSTERS - We were also supplied with notices which several neighbours attached to street lamps, again advertising we are in a NW.
CONTACTS - Each neighbour who is in a NW group has the phone numbers and e mails of the others in their group. If they go on holiday they also advise the co-ordinator who can keep an eye on the house and contact a keyholder if necessary.
VGILANT - Being part of a NW has made us all more vigilant. For example, some months ago we were pestered by youths touring the estate on mini-motorbikes. This was circulated amongst the neighbours and eventually we had to contact the police for advice. The police sent out the Community officers to patrol the areas and the bikers were sent on their way.
NEWSLETTERS - From time to time we have a meeting of the co-ordinators and we then issue a newsletter to everyone else. We usually do this in autumn to remind people to be extra vigilant as the darker evenings begin. And another newsletter is sent out in early summer, reminding people about security measures to take when they go on holiday and about locking up gardening equipment.
FREE ADVICE - The police issue many publications which offer guidance and security tips. For example one neighbour told us she always leaves her hall light on when she is out for the evening. People do not live in the hall, so the police advised her it was more sensible to leave a light on in a room normally used in the evenings. Makes sense really!
CURRENT SITUATION - It is now a few years since we set up our NW scheme and thankfully crime has been reasonably low. Perhaps that is because most of us have become more security conscious, or because we keep an eye on each other's property.
The police are on hand to offer assistance whenever we have a query. They hold regular meetings with co-ordinators from other groups where we can share information. We can also buy locks, dusk to dawn lightbulbs, and personal alarms at reduced prices.
SET UP A GROUP - If you don't have a Neighbourhood Watch in your area, then think about setting one up. It only takes a few minutes to contact your local police NW co-ordinator. Then get together with your neighbours and form the groups. If it prevents crime in your area then it is worth it.
GET INVOLVED - forget the idea that being in a NW group is only for nosey people. It takes everyone in the community to make NW work. Don't just sit back and leave everything to the co-ordinators. If you see anything suspicious report it to the police yourself, don't be blase and think "it won't happen to me", be more security conscious. If a Neighbourhood Watch is to work, then everyone needs to support it. No good just thinking the co-ordinator should do everything, then complaining if you are not informed about things.
NO REPORT - NO CRIME - One last point - if you have a NW in your area and don't hear about what is happening, then this is a good thing. You should only hear about incidents that have happened or be reminded to be vigilant. No reports could mean there is no crime to report on.