The Neighbourhood Watch has been a staple of British society since the early 1980’s, helping communities deter and fight crime around their local area. It involves the cooperation of residents, police and local authorities to improve home security, report suspicious activity and provide greater vigilance on an constant basis.
Nearly 4 million households are estimated to be covered by a Neighbourhood Watch program across the UK, an impressive number as the scheme is entirely voluntary. Over the years the project has been a successful one in helping police tackle crime and build community spirit also.
There are various benefits of being part of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme apart from the obvious crime deterrent. Local residents feel more secure in the knowledge their neighbours are looking out for them, and vice versa. It allows people to be at work for long hours and go on holiday throughout the year with less worry.
With such a mutually beneficial scheme in place, an increased sense of community spirit develops residents who remain active in it. Regular communication is encouraged with neighbours which leads to stronger bonds and a greater sense of togetherness.
Each local Neighbourhood Watch group will appoint a co-ordinator to organise and chair regular meetings. Here, members can discuss additional ways of crime prevention and other local issues. This helps improve local relationships and allows people to meet new or unfamiliar neighbours also.
These meetings, sometimes joined by a community police officer, will address various methods of home safety to both deter and prevent criminals from attempted break-ins. With police representation present, this also provides an effective way to report suspicious activity in the local area and raise further grievances.
The police themselves welcome assistance from the community to help report any signs of wrongdoing and thus curb criminal activity. With this, criminal trends will be noted and any patterns which emerge can help prevent similar crimes from happening in the future.
There are no compulsory obligations as a Neighbourhood Watch member, although you’re expected to stay active within the community and attend meetings. Of course, remaining vigilant at all times and looking out for each other’s property is a must, as is reporting any suspicious activity to the police or co-ordinator. Your name will be kept in the strictest of confidence if something has been reported.
The area co-ordinator has additional responsibilities as the link between police and Neighbourhood Watch members. They are required to organise meetings throughout the year, circulate newsletters and welcome newcomers into the group. If anyone in their jurisdiction has been a recent victim of crime, co-ordinators should let members know to keep residents on high alert.
To join the Neighbourhood Watch you can visit the official website for more information on how to get involved. By searching by postcode, information on your nearest group can be accessed also.
Feature image credit: Nick Stenning via Flickr.