Neighbourhood Watch Conference

CLA North Rural Adviser Libby Bateman blogs on the Neighbourhood Watch- the largest crime prevention organisation in the country,
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Neighbourhood Watch is the largest crime prevention organisation in the country, covering both England and Wales. The organisation has 2.3 million members led by around 90,000 volunteer coordinators. The main aim of the organisation is to connect individuals with a central focus on preventing crime. The organisation is celebrating its 40-year anniversary and is extending its reach beyond the reputation of urban curtain twitches.

Recognising that criminality has limitless geographical boundaries, the CLA has been working with Neighbourhood Watch coordinators to develop a national approach to rural crime, providing resources to an army of volunteers via a dedicated website and email bulletins. The benefit to CLA members is to ‘tap into’ the huge volunteer base and help them to recognise and understand the impact of rural crime.

For example, anti-social behaviour from off-road vehicle usage may emanate from urban communities, involving individuals with no access to land of their own. Equally, livestock worrying could happen when urban residents visit the countryside with dogs which have had no training in how to respond around livestock. If we are serious about getting the message home and making a difference then we cannot simply preach to the converted.

I was pleased to be invited to speak at the Neighbourhood Watch national conference in London at the end of May. Leading a workshop session inviting Neighbourhood Watch coordinators to explore the impacts of rural crime and help them to understand the opportunities to help make a difference.

Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators were told about the new laws to tackle the problem of hare coursing; volunteers were also told about the difference between trespass and aggravated trespass, opportunities to reduce the risk of vehicle and machinery thefts and emerging threats, like fuel theft. Other challenges discussed included the problem of fly-tipping, specifically the householder duty to ensure that all waste is disposed of correctly. Highlighting that it is not possible to discharge this duty by giving £20 to a man in a van. Delegates discussed the challenges of service quality assurance, even if the waste carrier held a formal licence.

A key approach for the workshop sessions was to introduce the CLA’s Lesson Plan for the Countryside Code presenting opportunities to reduce conflict with visitors in the countryside, with specific themes around keeping to footpaths, sky lanterns, disposable BBQs and keeping dogs under control. Delegates were invited to download the lesson plan from the CLA website here.

There was a lot of discussion around the benefit of crime prevention, specifically the use of technology to create a challenging environment for intruders in rural and urban locations. Security lighting, intruder alarms and simple doorbell cameras were discussed as low-cost opportunities to reduce criminal activity.

During the conference, Neighbourhood Watch launched a new Community Safety Charter alongside an associate membership to enable organisations, such as parish councils to link into the Neighbourhood Watch resources.

I was pleased to be joined by Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators from across the whole of England and Wales and had a very useful conversation with a team from West Yorkshire Police, having recently met with the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. CLA members are encouraged to link-up with their local Neighbourhood Watch network. For more information on the Charter and how to get involved with Neighbourhood watch, click here.