The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report to provide the Panel with an outline purpose of the meeting.
At its last meeting, the Panel had received information from the Police Inspector with responsibility for Neighbourhood Watch across Middlesbrough. The information provided included an outline of the operation of Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) and comparisons of various Neighbourhood Watch Schemes across Teesside. It was highlighted that Middlesbrough NHW Schemes had low membership and some concerns were noted regarding the NHW Executive Committee, which were being addressed.
Co-ordinators of several NHW Schemes from Middlesbrough were present at the meeting to share their knowledge and experience of NHW Schemes.
The first scheme described had been in operation for twenty two years and was formed in response to the high crime rate. Every household in the area covered by the scheme was a member and there were approximately 600 houses. Originally, the NHW Scheme had held an Annual General Meeting to which all members were invited and these meetings had been well attended. However, for the past three years not all the householders had been invited and a representative Committee had met instead.
Over the years, in conjunction with the Police, the NHW had helped introduce prevention measures such as alarms, door locks and security lighting. The introduction of these measures, along with awareness raising to encourage people to secure their houses and cars, had contributed to the current low crime rate in the area.
The NHW scheme depended on the Police to provide information which was then passed on to all householders via the Ringmaster system. The information was filtered by the NHW Co-ordinators to ensure that it was relevant to the area and in some cases it was not forwarded in case it might cause alarm or distress.
It was highlighted that the Ringmaster system had been tagged on to a Council system and it was noted that the previous dedicated system was preferred by that particular NHW scheme.
The second scheme described was still being established. The Co-ordinator voiced concern that it appeared anyone could sign up to be a NHW Co-ordinator and start a scheme, without any Police checks being required. In addition, although the national website described NHW as a partnership between Police, Local Authority and residents, there was no structure in place in Middlesbrough to communicate with, or co-ordinate, different NHW schemes.
Another representative present at the meeting agreed that the structure and communication with the Police was poor and it was difficult trying to establish the NHW scheme in that particular area. Due to resource cuts, Cleveland Police no longer employed a full-time Co-ordinator and this was now a civilian post.
Reference was made to a neighbouring Local Authority that held monthly meetings for all NHW Co-ordinators and also had a junior NHW scheme in place.
It was pointed out that the problems in each neighbourhood were often very different and the NHW schemes were best applied at local level in a defined area. In the past, the Police had hosted meetings for Middlesbrough NHW Co-ordinators but several of the people in attendance were not involved in schemes and the meetings had not proved particularly useful as each NHW area had its own problems.
AGREED as follows that:
1. The information provided be received and noted.
2. The NHW Co-ordinator from Cleveland Police, a representative from the Stockton NHW Co-ordinators Group and the Assistant Director of Community Protection be invited to the next meeting.