Bexley Neighbourhood Watch still going strong
PUBLISHED: 09:41 21 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:48 21 February 2013
If you have notions of what to expect from your local Neighbourhood Watch, think again.
The organisation, which has been running for 30 years, may conjure images of a bunch of old curtain-twitchers and all seem rather 1980s.
However, as police cuts continue apace, matched by increases in burglary, reliance on Neighbourhood Watch has grown.
Bexley branch chairman Dana Wiffen says he has definitely noticed a shift in attitude towards them.
“We’ve received more attention from the police since the cuts started happening. We’re now based in Bexleyheath police station so we work quite closely together.
“We went from being in a very quiet station at Belvedere to a large, busy office so that was a bit of a culture shock, but we give a sense of security to neighbourhoods and hopefully moving to the main police station in the borough will increase that.”
Bexley has 453 co-ordinators covering more than 25,000 streets – Dana estimates this takes up 28 per cent of those in the borough. The 60-year-old added: “Our aim this year is to push that number up to 50 per cent.”
Bexley branch was formed in 1998 and has grown over the years to be one of the biggest in London.
It has to apply for funding from the council every year, most of which goes towards one part-time office worker (the only paid member of the group) who deals with all the administration.
That is 41-year-old Claire Tack, who lives in Northumberland Way, Barnehurst.
“Schemes are important because they act as extra eyes and ears,” she says. “We are very proactive and let people know if there are burglaries in their streets. It shows community spirit is still alive.”
Dana moved to Bexley in 2002 and has been involved in Neighbourhood Watch ever since, becoming chairman when he fully retired as an accountant a year ago.
One of the hardest parts of his job is making residents aware of the impact of crime on a whole community, not just the street where it occurs.
“People are more inclined to join a Neighbourhood Watch if they have crime in their area. Sometimes if a street is quiet and crime-free, people might not think it needs a watch.
“But there might be incidents happening a street or two away which could ultimately affect you.
“Bexley is generally quite a safe borough but that doesn’t mean crime doesn’t happen and this is something which we all need to take into consideration.”
The watch’s committee has identified churches, stables and allotments as areas in the borough which are particularly susceptible to crime, especially metal theft from church roofs, and has sought to pay close attention to them.
It is also trying to increase its web presence through Facebook, Twitter and Streetlife to modernise its image and engage with the community.
If you want to do your bit and get involved, visit bexleywatch.org.uk or call Dana on 07950 609124.