Let's praise our Neighbourhood Watch heroes

Anyone who thinks of Neighbourhood Watch members as cantankerous nosey neighbours twitching their net curtains should think again.

I have been a huge advocate of Neighbourhood Watch ever since, as a young police office in the Met, I set up one of the first ever schemes in north London in the 1980s.

Then, as now, it was a vital scheme run by passionate volunteers who cared deeply about their communities.

It is also a genuinely useful and active community intelligence tool for the blue light services and a force for reassurance and cohesion, as well as helping people work more closely with the police service.

And don’t forget many insurance companies will give you a discount if you’re an active member of your local Neighbourhood Watch or Home Watch scheme – for the simple reason that by doing so you’re less likely to be a victim of crime.

Now, on National Neighbourhood Watch Week, it’s a chance for us to celebrate the work being done by these groups.

Across Dorset, we’re lucky to have around 780 schemes under the umbrella of the Association of Dorset Watches, which also includes other brilliant schemes such as Community Speed Watch, Horse Watch and Farm Watch that are helping to keep people safe across the county.

I know many of the people who run these schemes, and I’ve seen some of the amazing work they carry out.

For example, Corfe Mullen Home Watch has set up crime prevention teams, an idea which has also been taken up by Wimborne and Colehill Home Watch – a great initiative that is hoped to roll out to other areas of Dorset under the title of Neighbourhood Reassurance Team.

When a crime occurs in an area that the neighbourhood policing team think residents need to know about, they contact the Watch for volunteers.  The volunteers are split into groups and knock on the residents’ doors, tell them briefly what has happened, provide them with relevant crime prevention advice, encourage them to register for the Dorset Alert e-mail system and sign up new members.

Another great example is that of Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator Syd Green, who was returning home to Morcombelake from Bridport when he saw a large fire on Hardown Hill near Chideock.

He rang 999 from home to be told that it had already been reported and that the Fire and Rescue Service were on their way. 

Using his Neighbourhood Watch area lists Syd ascertained which members were most at risk and informed all of those that were at home.  Syd contacted 999 again to emphasise that the blaze was definitely a heath fire and so would spread rapidly, he also advised them that because of the terrain on the hill they would require special equipment to get up the tracks.

Other Neighbourhood Watch members then pitched in to help by spreading the word to neighbours, showing fire officers the route to the hill and directing them to the water reservoir by the radio mast.

Fire Officers worked tirelessly and were at the scene until the morning of the third day when they were satisfied that the fire was out.

His efforts were praised by District Commander for West Dorset Jason Rogers, who said: “I was extremely impressed and grateful for the local knowledge shared and proactive actions taken by the Ryall Neighbourhood Watch. Residents clearly take great pride in their local area and their efforts to assist Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service were much appreciated.”

There’s no doubt that the people involved in these schemes are heroes – and we could certainly do with a few more of those across our communities, so please do consider joining. You can get more details here.  

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