Times have changed over the past few decades, and so have the daily habits and the culture of our population. Pressures on working hours have become more severe, as have the pressures upon those who are unfortunately unable to find work. Fewer people seem willing to attend meetings nowadays.
Everything they want is available on the internet at the touch of a button; a whole new world since Neighbourhood Watch was first formed. There is now much less neighbourly interaction except in very small communities.
Neighbourhood Watch has had to change too, both locally and nationally.
Warwickshire Police have, for some time now, been offering residents, especially in local areas suffering from above average incidence of crime, the opportunity to join the Warwickshire Police Community Alert Scheme and receive automated messages to keep updated about relevant criminal or suspicious activity in their area. This free service has, of course, been available to Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators for many years.
Mid-Warwickshire Neighbourhood Watch Association has been working very closely with our partners in the Community Safety Partnership – Warwickshire Police, Warwickshire County and Warwick District Councils – to address this from the point of view of crime prevention and Neighbourhood Watch membership.
We have evolved a system of explaining to residents on their doorsteps the availability of the new Alert System, signing them up on the spot and offering Neighbourhood Watch membership at the same time if they wish, having explained that the amount they involve themselves in Neighbourhood Watch activities is entirely up to them, bearing in mind the culture changes mentioned above. Members who are unable to give much time to Neighbourhood Watch activities will at least be kept alert and aware of the need for their own crime prevention precautions.
The street(s) targeted are decided upon according to recent crime figures and the known ‘holes’ in local Neighbourhood Watch membership.
This system has been developed because we found that leaflet-dropping was a waste of time and money. We now find that 6 or 8 callers from the Safety Partnership, working in pairs for 2 hours maximum, regularly sign up 30-40 residents for the Alert System, with the majority also signing up for Neighbourhood Watch membership.
It is up to us all, co-ordinators and other members, to welcome the newcomers and to nurture and hopefully expand their interest.