Neighbourhood Watch schemes can be large, covering, for example most of the households on an estate or they might involve just half a dozen houses. It depends on the area and what people living there want.
A scheme is generally led by a volunteer co-ordinator whose job is to get people working together and make sure things get done. As well as the co-ordinator, there is usually a committee. Committees meet regularly to plan which problems to target and what action to take. Schemes keep in close touch with local police to share information and advice. Most crime is opportunist, committed on the spur of the moment, or when a car or house is left unlocked. This means there is enormous scope for reducing chances for criminals.
Traditional Neighbourhood Watch activity has focused on the immediate vicinity of homes, with members looking out for anything suspicious, or helping their neighbours as necessary. However, more and more schemes are broadening their range of work.
Targeting local problems such as vandalism or graffiti are well within the scope of a well-organised Watch scheme. You may be able to take action yourselves, such as fitting more secure door or window locks in vulnerable homes, or you may need to get others involved. This could mean lobbying the local authority, for example, to improve the street lighting on your estate or to step up the security of a communal entrance.
Many schemes now work in partnership with other agencies like Victim Support and Help the Aged to help reduce the fear of crime.
Anyone wishing to set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme should firstly canvass local opinion and determine the level of support such an initiative might have. If they find the level of support is high they should nominate someone to act as their spokesperson and approach the police Neighbourhood Watch Liaison Officer, (see the 'How to join' page) who will help them through the initial stages.
Once they have been formed they should nominate someone to act as their Scheme Co-ordinator, together with a Deputy, and then ideally form a small committee or steering group of three or four members for the average scheme of 10 to 20 homes. Details of the Co-ordinator should then be passed to all the scheme’s members and to the Neighbourhood Watch Liaison Officer, with any subsequent changes being notified.
If I volunteer to be a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator what will I do?
- Contact individual households to arrange a meeting to discuss setting up a scheme.
- Set up and maintain a NHW within a specific area.
- Pass relevant information from the police on crime in the area to members and from members to the police.
- Act as a link between the scheme, other co-ordinators, local police, local NHW Associations and the local authority.
- Circulate any newsletters, leaflets, property marking kits etc
- Encourage members to inform police quickly of any criminal/suspicious incidents.
As a Neighbourhood Watch member what will I be expected to do?
- Be alert and respond to what is going on in your neighbourhood, but it is not expected that people will need to patrol the streets. Being vigilant doesn't mean you have to be a vigilante!
- If you have the time, you could help to prepare newsletters or help organise meetings and events.
- You can take simple steps to avoid attracting criminals, for example, giving an elderly person who lives alone some help, pushing mail through a letterbox, removing milk bottles left on a doorstep. Read the Crime Reduction pages.
For a more information on Neighbourhood Watch roles, visit the association page.