Neighbourhood Watch Schemes: How to Take Action
Everyone wants to live in safety. With concerns about crime on the increase it makes sense for neighbours to look out for each other. It is natural to want to safeguard homes and communities, especially for vulnerable members of society such as children and the elderly. They are the ideal vehicle for supporting the police .A recent Home Office report found that Neighbourhood Watch schemes do reduce the level of crime in their areas. They exist across the UK and there is plenty of training and support available for anyone who wants to get involved.
The AimsAccording to the Neighbourhood & Home Watch Network (the national body for England & Wales) Schemes create “communities who care.” There are 4 main benefits to Neighbourhood Watch Schemes:
- Reduction of crime
- Assistance to the police in tackling reported crimes
- Creation of a sense of local security
- Encouragement of closer community spirit
Benefits of Getting InvolvedVolunteers for Schemes not only benefit from knowing that they and their neighbours are looking out for each other they benefit from learning practical skills as well. These ensure that their homes, persons and environment are all more secure. At the same time involvement in a scheme tends to bring people together, encouraging more sociability and friendships amongst people who were once strangers.
There is a real sense of satisfaction to be gained from introducing crime prevention techniques in a community and seeing the advantages for everyone. Children can play more happily, older people can move more freely and everyone can feel reassured that others are keeping an eye on their homes. Even insurance companies approve of Watch Schemes so that premiums may fall in a Neighbourhood Watch area.
How to Get InvolvedApproach the police to find out about local schemes. Each scheme has a volunteer co-ordinator who can be contacted for more information about getting involved. Find out about committee meetings and go along to learn more about local projects and what is being tackled at the present time. Committees work closely with police forces to target community problems as effectively as possible. Police can release local crime statistics and of course give practical advice on aspects of crime prevention to support the work of the scheme.
Initiatives may include conducting surveys, identifying problem areas, working on a plan of action to combat crimes and reducing the chances for opportunistic crimes. At a practical level this could mean painting over graffiti, fitting door locks, collecting evidence to present to the council for more street lighting or being extra vigilant in areas which have suffered recent burglaries. Even the act of erecting Neighbourhood Watch signs in an area can be enough to deter potential criminals.
Other roles may include tidying up neglected buildings or waste ground which could attract criminal elements. Another big area of work is in promoting the Scheme and working with other agencies and groups to help reduce the fear of crime in an area. The aim is to change people’s perceptions and to reclaim communities for the law-abiding majority. One particularly growing area of work is in tackling many of the issues facing young people such as bullying, violence and car crimes.
Starting from ScratchIf there is no local Scheme then there is plenty of help available in setting up a group. The Home Office website contains useful links to information including a Neighbourhood Watch Toolkit. Full training and advice is also available from local police forces.
The scheme has been around for over twenty five years and is an extremely effective partnership between the police and active citizens. Getting involved means taking a stand to safeguard the local neighbourhood. It also brings people more closely together in a shared sense of belonging and community spirit.