Neighbourhood Crimewatch

With today’s escalated crime rate, it seems almost impossible for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to cope with the problem on its own. That is why it is vital now for us to build successful partnerships within our nation’s communities and rally our people together towards establishing and maintaining safer neighbourhoods, towns and cities, and ultimately a safer country for us all.

One of the great misconceptions surrounding Neighbourhood Crimewatch Schemes is that they are run by the police. This is not so. Crimewatch schemes are run by the community, with support from organisations such as the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce (TTCIC), the community police and the corporate citizenry.

What Is A Neighbourhood Crimewatch?

Crimewatch is a programme aimed at reducing crime in the community. It involves getting to know one’s neighbours and introducing them to the concept of working together, alert to the potential of crime and willing to look out for one another’s interest. Neighbours working together through Crimewatch can combat crime in their area in the most effective way – before it starts. Crimewatch provides a means of reducing the opportunities for crime to occur, through the active participation of citizens in crime prevention.
Individuals are taught how to: 

  1. Make their home less inviting as a target for thieves
  2. Be alert to suspicious activity in their neighbourhood
  3. Identify and report a suspicious character or crime to the police

Very few people are in a position to protect their homes and property all of the time. Vacation, business and shopping trips or even an evening out will leave homes unattended and vulnerable to theft.


The Crimewatch programme provides a sense of security for individuals or families who leave home for any length of time. The programme will also help to:

  1. Co-ordinate the efforts of the police and the community in tracking down criminals.
  2. Keep the community informed of the incidence of crime in the area and encourage strong community involvement via Crimewatch teams, meetings and social functions.
  3. Increase neighbourhood unity as neighbours who are joined together make it easier to correct situations which threaten their peace and safety.
  4. Deter criminal activity through relevant signage and displays of other Crimewatch material, thus identifying a particular area as having active Crimewatch participants.
  5. Increasing one’s awareness and knowledge of practical personal and household security through surveys and identification and improvements of weaknesses.


Structure

Statistics indicate that where there is a strong working Neighbourhood Crimewatch programme, there is an overall reduction in the volume of crime committed in that area. By getting involved, you will contribute to the development and continued strength of your local Neighbourhood Crimewatch.

Neighbourhood Crimewatch schemes can be large, covering most of the households in a particular district or they might involve just half a dozen houses. It depends on the area and what people living there want. A scheme is generally led by a volunteer block captain or co-ordinator whose job is to get people working together and to make sure things get done. As well as the co-ordinator, there is usually a committee. Committees meet regularly to plan which problems to target and what action to take. Schemes keep in close touch with the police to share information and advice.

 

Activities

They can target local crime problems and take action to prevent them. Schemes should find out from local people what concerns them most and focus on a specific problem. These are the key steps to targeting and reducing crime and the fear of crime in an area. In consultation with your local police:

  • conduct a ‘fear of crime’ survey
  • target crimes you can have a real impact on
  • identify the opportunities for crime
  • form an action plan to tackle the problem
  • block or reduce opportunities for the criminal

Most crime is based on opportunity, committed on the spur of the moment, or when a car or house is left unlocked. This means there is enormous scope for reducing chances for criminals. Neighbourhood Crimewatch activity generally focuses on the immediate vicinity of homes, with members looking out for anything suspicious, or helping their neighbours as necessary. Many schemes now work in partnership with other agencies (such as private security firms) to help reduce the fear of crime.

 

Repeat burglaries

When a home is burgled it is more likely to be burgled again than a home that hasn’t. If it does happen it is likely to be within the next few weeks. After all, a burglar has been into the home, found the weak points in its security and had a good look at the contents and layout. So stepping up the security of a burgled home straightaway can prevent a further crime.

Neighbourhood Crimewatch schemes can tackle this problem by forming protective ‘cocoons’ around burgled homes. Immediate neighbours are asked to keep an eye on the targeted home, to be especially watchful for a few weeks and to report anything suspicious to the police. Where these cocoons have been set up following a burglary, they can have a dramatic impact in preventing another crime in the high-risk period.

The key is to:

  • respond quickly
  • get all neighbours who overlook the burgled property to help
  • be extra vigilant for a few weeks

 

Partnership with the police

Crimewatch schemes are not police-run groups. But to be truly effective against crime, they need to plan action in co-operation with the police.

It is essential to establish a close working relationship with the police, and to share with them all information relating to crime and other incidents in your area. Many police stations have designated people who, in conjunction with the police, act as a liaison point for Crimewatch block captains or co-ordinators. The police can provide up-to-date crime figures and other information as well as expert advice, while Crimewatch members can contribute valuable grassroots information about the area.

 
 

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