Sidmouth: big increase in membership for local Neighbourhood Watch group

  Posted: 27.09.21 at 16:31 by Philippa Davies

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Sidmouth’s only registered Neighbourhood Watch group has recruited dozens of new members, following an ‘explosion of interest’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Higher Woolbrook Park Neighbourhood Watch held its first post-lockdowns meeting at the Blue Ball Inn on Tuesday, September 14, with around 26 members and two local PCSOs, Phil Thomas and Steven Blanchford-Cox, in attendance.

Co-ordinator Trevor Heynes said a recent recruitment campaign had resulted in 23 new households registering, bringing the number to 54 and the total number of members to 89.

He said throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns there had been ‘an explosion of interest in Neighbourhood Watch’, which was probably due to people spending so much more time in their communities and becoming more aware of what was happening locally – including crime and anti-social behaviour.

He’s now hoping the Higher Woolbrook Park group can help expand Neighbourhood Watch throughout Sidmouth.

Mr Heynes told the meeting he’d attended a ‘fascinating’ seminar for Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators, and heard how, on a national level, the organisation wants to become the expert voice of community-based crime reduction.

Lealets and posters on display at the Neighbourhood Watch meeting

It also aims to become a contributor to community health and wellbeing, and help reduce loneliness and isolation.

Neighbourhood Watch ‘brings greater community engagement’

The guest speaker at the meeting was Jules Fairman, the strategic co-ordinator with Devon and Cornwall Community Watch Association.

She said Neighbourhood Watch schemes could lead to greater community engagement, including support for people who are not at high risk, but still feel afraid or isolated.

She explained that Neighbourhood Watch can arrange for basic household security improvements for them, such as spyholes and door bolts, to make them feel safer in their homes.

The main aims of Neighbourhood Watch, she said, are to reduce opportunities for criminals, make people more aware of crime prevention, improve community spirit and give them access to a network of information and support.

The importance of reporting crime to the police

One key issue that arose during the meeting was the reporting of crime – and the difficulties people have in doing so. Sidmouth PCSO Steven Blanchford-Cox said it’s important for Neighbourhood Watch members to report crimes or anything suspicious in their area, as every piece of information helps them to see the bigger picture: “Sometimes the smallest bit of information is the piece of the jigsaw we haven’t got.”

But he admitted that there are problems with the 101 police phone line which is currently short-staffed. He advised people to visit the Sidmouth and Seaton Local Policing Team page of the Devon and Cornwall Police website and use the contact form there to email local officers, who monitor the emails regularly.

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