27% of all residences in the London Borough of Wandsworth are covered by Neighbourhood Watch Schemes, making this the safest borough in London to live in. There are 8000 Neighbourhood Watch Schemes across London. 70% of Neighbourhood Watch budgets are now being spent for digital communications. The new Neighbourhood Watch website http://www.ourweatch.org.uk has already been nominated for a prize on its first day of the launch.
I attended a Conference in Wandsworth today that coincided with Neighbourhood Watch week. The title was “Neighbourhood Watch at the Heart of The Big Society”. Neighbourhood Watch is a resident driven initiative and drives on voluntary efforts. There are many types of watches now that are not dependent on geographical areas but function over a common interest, e.g. dog watch, speed watch, cold watch. In the case of dog watch, dog walkers can patrol parks, with speed watch volunteers equipped with speed cameras can monitor traffic.
Such voluntary initiatives are essentially providing the necessary extra push to rid areas of often prolonged problems.
I became a little envious when I realised how well Neighbourhood Watch is developed in Wandsworth and asked how Tower Hamlets can get more assistance. Superintendent Stuart Dark promised to look into it and gave me a new Mascot, a plush Meerkat.
Since Neighbourhood Watches are resident led, we rely on residents building Neighbourhood Watches and then coordinate under the umbrella of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association, the London Watch Association.
I thought it particularly useful that in Wandsworth there is an SNT team of the year award, which is very useful to edge on SNT teams to be as productive as possible, we could consider adopting this for Tower Hamlets.
the speakers at the conference included BAroness Angela Browning, Minister for Crime Prevention & Anti-social behaviour reduction who praised Wandsworth for making such a good effort. There is now also a trend to do the total Neighbourhood Watch approach, as explained by Cllr James Cousins but we did this here already at Parkview Estate, as all involved in Parkview Estate were invited to the most recent meeting, which saw the attendance of the headmistress of Gatehouse School.
Marilyn Barratt from Operation Liberal, which is a national task force against distraction burglary / rogue traders explained how devastating the effect on the mostly elderly victims of distraction burglary is and often leads to hospitalization and death to victims who are mostly vulnerable elderly residents.
Jim Maddan, chair of the London Neighbourhood Watch association explained the way forward for the neighbourhood watch movement that was even adopted in France as the most effective community safety initiative. There are now 170.000 Neighbourhood Watch schemes throughout the UK. The Community Safety Trust sponsors the activity in Wandsworth. Here in Tower Hamlets we have the Tower Hamlets Partnership.
I mentioned during question time that the MPA sponsors the Tower Hamlets Police and Community Safety Board but that promotion of Neighbourhood Watch takes place in Tower Hamlets, via East End Life, which is the main council publication and that only 15% of residents have computers. I hope that superintendent Dark can look into this and help edge Tower Hamlet’s on to Promote Neighbourhood Watch as effective communal organisation. I shall try and make an appointment with Mayor Lutfur Rahman about this also.