Neighbourhood Watch in Rutland is facing an uncertain future, and people have been urged to get involved and keep the good work going.
A national restructuring programme has placed extra pressures on the four volunteer board members of the Rutland Neighbourhood Watch Association, and chairman Ruthven Horne believes key decisions must be made in the next six months.
He has invited anyone with an interest in crime prevention and public safety to discuss the future of the association at its annual general meeting at the county council chamber in Oakham from 7pm tonight (January 27).
“It’s extremely important,” said Mr Horne. “I don’t think we can carry on as we are beyond six months. The members need to know that we have come to a crunch point and there have to be some changes.”
The county’s Neighbourhood Watch schemes are all run independently. But the association plays a key role both in setting up groups and overseeing their work, particularly given the recent cuts to the police.
Although board members would prefer not to disband, it is an option they may have to consider if further public support is not forthcoming.
Mr Horne said: “People have to realise that there has to be a change of some kind. Whether that is more volunteers, some sort of high-tech solution or a paid person, I don’t know. But we have not got the facilities to carry on as we are.”
Explaining the work that goes on, Mr Horne added: ”Neighbourhood Watch schemes used to be started by police, but as time has gone on police priorities have focused on having to deal with other issues. Then our role in the association increased.
“The problem with doing away with any sort of overview is how do you start new groups in areas that need them?
“Somewhere like Oakham is one of the only real urban areas in Rutland. That’s where most of the crime in Rutland is, and that’s where you would want us to be considering starting more Neighbourhood Watch schemes.
“But if you are in another watch somewhere else, you are going to be preoccupied with your own scheme. The loss of this development role the association plays is what I see as a problem.
“There is also a liaison role as well. If there is a problem, who picks it up? How do you identify it? That’s very difficult to do if you are all split into little groups across the county. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
PC Joe Lloyd works closely with the Neighbourhood Watch groups in Oakham, and believes they are “invaluable” to crime prevention and reporting. He encouraged people to go along to the meeting to find out how they could help the county association.
He said: “We are relying more on the local residents to not just be ‘nosy neighbours’ but really assist us with intelligence. It’s also a two-way conversation and it’s about us giving information back.
“It would be a big loss if the association folded. I would encourage everyone to get involved.”
Mr Horne presented a number of possible options for the future in the association’s annual report for 2015.
One was to identify new board members.
Another was to train pairs of volunteers in a similar way to a speed watch group. They would specialise in a particular task, such as promoting Neighbourhood Watch at county events and in the media, developing new watch schemes, or communications.
A third option was to appoint an employee to carry out many of the coordinating, contact, liaison and support roles that currently fall on board members and volunteers.
And a fourth was to close down the association and move all duties to the same eastern counties area defined in last year’s police restructure. The board members hope it doesn’t come to that, but need more support from the Rutland community to avoid it.
“I don’t want to be scaremongering, but it is important,” said Mr Horne. “If you are interested, please come along.”
Wednesday’s meeting will last about an hour and a half. If you cannot attend but want to know more, call Mr Horne on 01572 823811 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.