Saturday, 13 July 2024
UK Charity Week 2024 - Sponsored by Sinclair Method UK
Saturday, 13 July 2024

Stronger communities are the key to reducing crime

As the largest voluntary movement focused on crime prevention in England and Wales, Neighbourhood Watch welcomes the focus in all the main party manifestos on tackling crime and antisocial behaviour but urges the next government to give equal focus to the role of connected communities and neighbourhoods in preventing crime, rather than just increasing the capacity of the police and criminal justice system to respond to offences.

John Hayward-Cripps, Chief Executive of the national charity that represents the movement said:

“We’re really pleased to see commitments from all the major parties to strengthen Neighbourhood policing. But we would remind them that the Neighbourhood part of that work is just as important as the Policing bit.”

Working in partnership with the public is a fundamental principle of British policing, dating back to Sir Robert Peel in the 19th century, and it remains more relevant and necessary than ever. While the public should be confident that those who break the law will be caught and dealt with by the courts, the primary goal of policing should put preventing crime above catching offenders, and success should be measured in lower crime rates, and not just the number of arrests and convictions.

Over 2.3 million households across England and Wales are connected through local Neighbourhood Watch schemes, and 60,000 active volunteers help them get involved in making their communities better and safer places to live. Much of this work provides vital support for the police by delivering information and advice on keeping safe from crime, helping people to report concerns, and supporting victims. But our local groups also take action to improve local parks, clear up litter, and train individuals, businesses and other community groups on how they can play their part in tackling antisocial behaviour, harassment, or hate crimes. All of these initiatives are local actions taken by local residents, aimed at making their neighbourhoods places where crime is less likely to happen.

In Greenwich (South East London), communities have come together to tackle antisocial behaviour, which was affecting residents including children and young families, who had come to avoid using their local playground due to vandalism and drug dealing. With collaboration between the local Council, Neighbourhood Watch groups and Police, the playground was secured, cleaned up and cared for, leading to an 80% drop in recorded antisocial behaviour incidents. This has had a hugely positive impact on the local community, with families now regularly using the space to come together as neighbours.

As a result of these efforts, our member surveys show that over three-quarters (77%) of Neighbourhood Watch members think that people who live in their area trust one another. And almost all (90%) think that if they needed help, their community would be there for them.

Donna Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight at a recent awards ceremony for community activists in Winchester said:

“Volunteers, partners, and community groups make a vital contribution to policing. Their efforts often go unseen, but in fact play a huge part in keeping people safe, day after day.” 

Community-based initiatives like Neighbourhood Watch not only reduce the burden on the police and criminal justice system, enabling them to focus on the most serious offences and the most frequent offenders, but they also lessen the fear of crime which blights many people’s lives, especially the elderly and vulnerable, and improve well-being.

John Hayward-Cripps said:

“Everyone recognises that tackling crime will be a big challenge that will take time and money, but the work of civil society movements like ours in helping people be good neighbours and build better communities is a great way of delivering impact quickly and at low cost. We hope the next government will recognise that and support us to reach more people in more places.”

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