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Do you live in an area where there is virtually no crime? If you do, ask yourself if a Neighbourhood Watch will be necessary, or is there some other good cause you could give your time to.
To make your mind up go to the Ourwatch website and glean as much information as you can. On the site you can also look at the police recorded crime data street by street. You won’t be shown which houses got broken into or the precise location of a car theft; just the totals for each street, but this will be good enough for you to gain a good idea of what’s going on in your local area. Remember too that recorded crime is about half that of actual crime, so you can double the figures.
Get in touch with somebody from your local neighbourhood policing team, the details of which can be found on the Ourwatch website or at Police.UK This will give you further insights into the problems you might have in your local streets and I think this will probably be the moment that you will decide one way or the other.
If you’re convinced that this is something you want to do you’ll need to find other volunteers to help you. This is best achieved by organising a meeting at a local community hall, back room of the pub, your house or maybe the scout hut, but this is something you’re going to have to arrange first – hopefully for free.
Door-knocking and speaking to your neighbours is obviously the best way of making contact with other volunteers to help you, but this process does take a long time. You may instead choose to simply deliver leaflets through everyone’s doors and leave the door knocking until later, or perhaps knock on a few doors as you walk around.
I’ve searched the Ourwatch website for advice about door-knocking, but haven’t been able to find it (That’s not to say it’s not there - I just couldn’t find it!), so I thought it might be useful to add some advice here.
This should be quite handy for whatever reason you might want to knock on the neighbours’ doors. For example, my wife is a beautician who works from home and when she started up her now successful business she and I and our children went door knocking and delivering leaflets for several days, so this advice comes from experience!
When should I do door-knocking?
You may feel you have no choice about the time of year, because you want to get things moving, but clearly Spring, Summer and early Autumn are the best times, both for the better weather and longer hours of daylight.
Knocking on doors during the day in between school drop offs and pick-ups will find parents at home as well as retired people. These are important people simply because they are about during the day and see things. While you’re doing this you’ll also get a feel for the number of houses with nobody at home. Make a note of these if you intend to return in the evening and thus speak with as many people as possible.
Knocking on doors during the early evening will find additional people who have just come home from work. Statistically they may have experienced daytime crimes more often than those at home all day and this experience might mean they will be willing to help.
Just bear in mind that not everyone will be in support of what you want to do, so always expect the unexpected.
What should I take with me?
Take your leaflets, clip-board and pen (to tick off the house numbers) and take a friend or neighbour, rather than going by yourself. You’ll be knocking on strangers’ doors and you’ll feel much more confident if there are two of you.
Your leaflet should identify who you are, but to start with can I suggest you only give the name of the road you live in. Remember at this early stage you are simply letting people know that you’re trying to get a Watch started and should they be interested you would like them to attend a meeting.
The leaflet should say a little something about why you want to begin a Watch in your area and that you are looking for some help. Your actual objectives can be agreed when you meet with the other volunteers, but references to the number of burglaries and vehicle crimes etc in the area might be useful. Include some information about the local policing team together with a quote of support from them – it all helps.
Obviously you’ll also need to include the time, day, date and venue details for your first meeting (I would suggest chairing the first meeting yourself on the proviso that a permanent chair can be elected later).
Having access to a computer and printer is obviously an advantage (you’re reading this, so you must have one) and I reckon you can fit all this information onto one sheet of A5, so that’s two leaflets per A4 sheet. If you want to say lots you can print on both sides.
Make sure your leaflets are pushed all the way through letterboxes and letter plates, as otherwise you’ll get off to a bad start! Respect occupiers’ wishes and don’t put leaflets through doors displaying notices saying things like ‘no circulars’. And it’s probably not a good idea to knock on a door that displays a sign saying ‘No cold callers’. Leave one of your leaflets instead. Also, beware of dogs on the other side of the door when you’re pushing your leaflet through the letter plate. Postal workers do get bitten!
Your first and subsequent meetings
When it comes to running a meeting and setting your objectives I would suggest you follow the advice given by Ourwatch, as they’re the experts and, as they state on their website, they are The only official national Neighbourhood Watch and Home Watch website supported by the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)
Setting up a website
If you are able to build a website using one of the widely available kits or you know someone who can do it for you for free then it’s probably a good idea to have one, because it’s a great way to keep in touch with your members. Take a look at the Neighbourhood Watch websites listed on my Partners page to see what can be done. And don’t forget to let me know you’ve got a website, so that we can link to each other.
Is your watch being successful?
Success is about achieving the objectives you have set yourselves, so set your objectives wisely and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew!
Here are just a few objectives you might want to think about:
- Deliver some relevant crime prevention advice to every household in the Watch periodically throughout the year – Lighting advice in October, Holiday advice in June etc. (There’s lots of advice on this website)
- Hold a Watch meeting every two or three months, but make it a regular thing
- Find two Street Co-ordinators for each street
- Set up a ring-round between Co-ordinators (or email messaging) with your Neighbourhood police team, whereby they can send you urgent information about a crime or incident in your area. Or sign up to one of the message alert schemes if your police support one.
- Set up a Neighbourhood Watch stall at a local fair or event to spread the crime prevention message
- Arrange some discount from the local Master Locksmith or Alarm Company
- Identify vulnerable neighbours who would benefit from a little help
- Organise a litter-pick or a community skip from the council to clean up the local environment
- Learn how to remove graffiti and see if your council can supply you with the equipment
There is so much to do and so many ways that a well organised Neighbourhood Watch can help. I am sure you will find it rewarding!
Updated August 2017