“Would You Be Interested In Setting Up A Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) Scheme?”. I was asked that question a few days ago. Strange, I thought, I have already set up a scheme and I am its co-ordinator. It started in January 2016. It’s now part of the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership. But when I started there was a paid Police Watch Liaison Officer.
The December 2015 Minutes of the Aughton Parish Council state “The Chairman then invited the representative from Lancashire Constabulary, Lynn Wareing, to give her presentation on Neighbourhood Watch. The Watch Liaison Officer gave details of what the setting up of a NHW scheme entailed, the number of properties involved (between 5 & 20), and the role of a Co-ordinator for each scheme. She introduced the Chairman of Chorley & District Neighbourhood Watch Association who brought his experience to the meeting and full details on how a Co-ordinator would set up a Neighbourhood Watch, manage a Scheme and listed the benefits which included: bringing people closer together, building a stronger community spirit, helping to reduce crime. Leaflets on Neighbourhood Watch were circulated at the meeting and would be available at Aughton Police Station”.
In the spirit of voluntary unpaid local service some people who attended that meeting, me being one, signed up. It might be, to some, a special responsibility without the special responsibility allowances some other, 32 I believe, elected, people are deemed to need and receive!
In October 2016 we received this news from Lynn Wareing “I have been in the role of Watch Liaison Officer since December 2011, however, I was informed last week that my role is to be disestablished and therefore abolished as part of the Lancashire Constabulary’s change process. I have been assured that police support for Neighbourhood Watch will continue although, at this time, I have no information as to how this will look in the future. Similarly, I have no information as to who will become the Single Point Of Contact within the Constabulary or indeed whether there will be such a S.P.O.C. I will no longer be responsible for the ‘In The Know’ (ITK) message broadcasts that you receive in relation to local crime, threats and updates. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with such dedicated and caring community volunteers as yourselves and I would like to thank you, personally, for your hard work, dedication and commitment to community safety and the care of vulnerable individuals”.
It became obvious that the reduced Police funding crisis made the Watch Liaison Officer an easy target, and off she popped, leaving behind some disillusioned co-ordinators.
On hearing of local unrest, the Police and Crime Commissioner wrote to us “I have been contacted by some co-ordinators who have raised concerns regarding the role of NHW Liaison Officers as part of this work…I wanted to give you a little more information and hopefully re-assure you of my commitment, and that of Lancashire Constabulary, in supporting you and your local schemes. Neighbourhood Watch is an important part of my vision for policing in Lancashire, it is part of the key priority of Protecting Local Policing in my new Police and Crime Plan…Crime, however, is changing and so the responses to crime must also change and develop and I am keen to support Neighbourhood Watch in this…I am committed to ensuring Neighbourhood Watch, alongside our cadets and Special Constabulary get the best support possible and my office and I are working with the Constabulary and the neighbourhood and Home Watch Network as well as others on a new volunteering model across the county which recognises the importance of partnership working across all of the public sector…I want to ensure the support you receive in the future is fit for purpose and supports you in making the different you want to see in your communities…If roles are changed this will be to reflect new ways of working and I am clear that the level of support offered to co-ordinators such as yourselves should not be diminished”. Blah blah!
Anyway, back to the recent invitation. You need “a passion for making your community a better place, to become a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator”. Act as a key point of contact to receive and cascade information between watch members, other local coordinators and partners, where relevant. Manage watch administration, ensuring that the scheme and membership information is registered in line with local policy and kept up to date. Signpost members with community safety issues to the most appropriate organisation. Promote personal responsibility for community safety by encouraging watch members to improve both home and personal security. Promote neighbourliness by encouraging members to share crime reduction information and keep an eye on each other’s homes and possessions, giving special consideration to vulnerable neighbours. Support public services to identify local issues and solve problems where there are community concerns”.
Cascading of information is a strange phrase to use about NHW, at least in Aughton, where once a month the Parish Council Chairman and Clerk attend what is called a “Meeting with Local Police”. It used to be a PACT meeting, unfortunately abandoned due to poor local public interest. They don’t let me attend, something to do with secrets, although in my work I signed the Official Secrets Act 63 years ago and remain bound by it. They receive details of crimes in Aughton which are reported at the following parish meeting. So all the crimes reported are therefore historic, perhaps five weeks old. No use whatsoever to the NHW co-ordinators and their members who must wonder why they joined. This poster is not available to us. If I print it and stick it to a lamp-post I will become a crime statistic perhaps five weeks after I am convicted of doing it. Crazy!