Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Year, New Neighbours

This article first appeared in the Wanstead Village magazine and was written by Steve Wilks of Redbridge Neighbourhood Watch. Obviously it focussed on the changes in Wanstead and South Woodford, so it has been slightly modified to give it a more Barkingside flavour.

Many of you will have been following the Redbridge ward boundary changes proposed by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. It was obvious from the pattern of population density that major changes would be required in the west of the borough with consequential knock-on effects through to the north and south. These changes have now been confirmed and will take effect at the next local elections in 2018.

Whatever the merits and demerits of the proposals are, it is important to remember that nothing changes as far as Redbridge Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) is concerned. Some people have voiced concerns that they will no longer be part of Roding, Fullwell or Fairlop, but from our perspective the current set up and organisation will continue as before. It is also worthy to note that NHW works in unison; ward boundaries are as irrelevant to us as they are to criminal activity. Indeed, crime solving has been more successful through the collaboration with the Safer Neighbourhood Teams of multiple wards, working with both the various police community support officers (PCSOs) so that criminal activity does not manifest in one particular area.

It is with this principle in mind that NHW needs to focus on the whole of the borough and not just specific wards. One recent initiative developed to achieve this has been OnLine Watch Link (OWL). This service helps to keeps communities safe and to reduce crime and keeps people informed of what is going on locally. It is a shared, secure platform for the public and local authorities to maximise the potential of NHW, Rural Watch, Business Watch and dozens of other schemes. OWL sends residents the latest local crime alerts and provides management tools for maintaining and expanding watches. OWL was recently featured on Crimewatch (short video here) and has also been successfully trialled and implemented in East Hertfordshire. NHW members receive regular local policing updates and alerts from their local policing team via email, or by telephone if preferred, using the award-winning communication system. Local policing teams can, therefore, keep communities informed about what is happening locally and how they can help, for example, to look out for stolen property or help find missing people. They will also tell you about local policing events, update you about crimes, incidents or concerning trends in your area, alert you to appeals for information or witnesses and keep you up to date with the latest crime prevention information and advice to share with your friends and neighbours. The idea is that OWL works in tandem with the ‘watch’ to provide a comprehensive and effective response against crime in Redbridge.

Crime is often lower where there are active NHW groups and the Metropolitan Police actively supports this, which makes Redbridge a more hostile environment for criminals and a safer place for residents and businesses.

We do recognize that not everyone has access to the internet and email, so we also have regular ward panel meetings to discuss various issues face to face. As a final note, there was an article in the Evening Standard (10 November 2016) stating that police today call on more Londoners to befriend their neighbours in a bid to tackle a rise in burglary according to the ‘Burglary Britain’ study conducted by home technology firm Nest. It found that 76% of Londoners do not belong to any NHW group. Of these, more than 30% said it was because they did not know their neighbours. It also found that 58% of Londoners had been victims of break-ins and that 44% would join such a scheme if it were digital. What's keeping you? click here!. According to Chief Superintendent Seam Wilson, Scotland Yard’s lead for burglary: “… the neighbourhood watch is an excellent vehicle for providing a framework in which people are kept up to date with… what is actually happening in their area and what to look out for. So if you have groups targeting the elderly, for example, or groups who are targeting arts and antiques or family jewellery, it just gives you a network. The message is: look after your communities, look after each other.”

We live in a low crime borough – Redbridge is the only outer east London borough to have seen an overall drop in crime between 2015 and 2016 – so please help us to maintain this and promote closer community ties.

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