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.
The UK's first Neighbourhood Watch was set up in Mollington, Cheshire
following the success of a similar scheme
, United States
. Many more schemes followed throughout the UK, and 10 million people
are now claimed to be members.
The neighbourhood watch schemes covers many aspects of criminal behavior.
Objectives of Neighbourhood Watch
- To prevent crime by improving security, increasing vigilance, creating and maintaining a caring community and reducing opportunities for crime by increasing crime prevention awareness.
- To assist the police in detecting crime by promoting effective communication and the prompt reporting of suspicious and criminal activity.
- To reduce undue fear of crime by providing accurate information about risks and by promoting a sense of security and community spirit, particularly amongst the more vulnerable members of the community.
- To improve police/community liaison by providing effective communications through Neighbourhood Watch messaging systems which warn Co-ordinators of local crime trends which they can disseminate to their scheme members, and by members informing the police of incidents when they occur.
Neighbourhood Watch schemes are run by their members through a Co-ordinator and are supported by the Police
and in many Divisions, a local Neighbourhood Watch Association.
Schemes can vary in size. A volunteer resident Co-ordinator supervises the scheme and liaises with the Police, they receive information and messages to keep them in touch with activities, and some have marker kits, alarms and other security items, which are available to members. It must be recognised that the scheme is a community initiative, which is supported by the police, not run by them, so success depends on what the members make of it.
The Police can't deal with the problems and issues arising from crime and anti-social behaviour alone; they need the help of the whole community. Neighbourhood Watch provides a way for local people to play an important part in addressing this balance and making their communities safer.
The role of a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator is to set up and maintain a Neighbourhood Watch scheme within a specific street, neighbourhood or area. They will need to be in contact with the crime prevention co-ordinator at their nearest police station who will help clarify what is involved and the initial steps to take. Whilst each crime prevention co-ordinator may develop specific procedures, the following are suggested as the main duties which co-ordinators will need to manage.
- Encourage vigilance amongst scheme members and actively encourage the early reporting of suspicious incidents to the police.
- Receive crime information from the Neighbourhood Watch messaging system and distribute these messages to scheme members.
- Encourage scheme members to be aware of and put into practice crime prevention measures, such as property marking and security devices.
- Keep a check on vulnerable households and provide advice to members about dealing with callers at the door.
- Circulate newsletters and other relevant information to scheme members.
- Welcome newcomers to the neighbourhood and invite them to be part of the scheme.
- Supply each scheme member with Neighbourhood Watch and crime prevention literature, such as Neighbourhood Watch window stickers and incident report cards.
These are the main tasks which would be expected of a co-ordinator, tasks will vary according to the needs of each individual neighbourhood.
Ward & Area Coordinators
Some larger communities will also appoint Area and/or Ward Coordinators forming a hierarchy who sit above other coordinators. The roles of the Ward and Area coordinators are not necessarily authoritative (may vary around the country), but they provide structure and cohesion for larger and more active watch schemes. These are typically more active roles to assist the other coordinators, organising coordinator meetings and neighbourhood meetings as well as being an extra link to the local Police
. Like all other coordinators these roles are completely voluntary and therefore unpaid.
Most of these senior roles are taken by people who are in their 50's, 60's and 70's. Although they bring experience and maturity to Neighbourhood Watch some may identify it as a weakness as there is a lack of participation from younger generations.
The UK Neighbourhood Watch Trust
The UK Neighbourhood Watch Trust was established in 2006 to promote secure, confident communities through its website http://www.neighbourhoodwatch.net. The site includes news, views, resources and forums, as well as a facility to search for your nearest Neighbourhood Watch group. If you register you group's details on the site, you can create and edit a Group Home Page for your group or association.