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Spotlight on Bexley NHW Association

Sholder of mutton green day - Dana and Brokenshire
Shoulder of mutton green NW stand1

Dana Wiffen, left, with local MPJames Brokenshire and members running the stall at the same event

BEXLEY Neighbourhood Watch has been active for 25 years and became an Association In November 1997 and the same year became a registered charity.

When they began a yearly newsletter was delivered to all residents in the roads covered by the co-ordinators. This was later aborted due to the financial costs although coordinators still receive a newsletter with over two thirds getting this by email.

It is run as a purely voluntary body to work with the police and to encourage the residents of the borough to join together to ensure that they have a safe and pleasant environment in which to live and work.

Their AGM is open to all coordinators and also attended by members of SNT’s as well as higher officers.

In November 1998 the organisaton was given a lottery grant to set-up and run The RINGMASTER system which enabled them to contact residents and inform them of local crime issues. Although Ringmaster is no longer used they have continued to work in this way and to expand throughout the Borough.

Their work over the years has proved to be very successful with the number of streets enrolling in our scheme steadily increasing. From the beginning they have survived financially from donations and council support and by fundraising, but four years ago had grown to a point where there was a need for a paid administrative officer to co-ordinate the demand from the public.

After considerable pressure the council agreed to fund a part time officer for 15 hours per week. This also led to increased activity and the number of streets involved has now reached 450 covering 23,000 houses.

These are fully recognised and registered members with pro-active coordinators who have informed their residents who they are and in many cases setting-up email addresses for their residents enabling them to instantly inform them of increasing crime trends in their areas.

NW street signs have been strategically fitted to lampposts in these areas and members have been asked to display NW door-stickers as an additional deterrent.

In addition to support the increased involvement in the borough Bexley Watch has managed to secure a sponsorship deal which has helped with our expansion especially as funding amounts are being annually reduced and commitments increasing as we expand.

Community demand has meant that they have also had to develop non- residential watches to support Churches-Faith Watch, Allotments-Plot Watch and Stables-Horse Watch all having a significant impact on reducing crime in these areas.

In addition in a joint scheme with Bexley Police we launched on the December 13, 2013 “Hound Watch” signing up dog walkers in the borough to look out for and report suspicious activity whilst walking their pets.

Their presence in the borough has been welcomed by the residents and well supported by the police in their fight against crime. Bexley is one of the safest boroughs in London and the work carried out by the Watch over the years has had a significant impact on this borough’s ranking in the table.

Bexley believe they are unique in London in that they are the only independent NW which is run as an Association and funded by a small grant and sponsorship.

In the latter part of 2013 they took part in a joint activity with the police in targeting crime hot-spot areas each month. This involved identifying where domestic burglary had increased and where there were already active Watches, asking Coordinators to leaflet their roads with awareness leaflets.

Where there are not active Watches then together with local police Ward Team members and Police Cadets the group has leafleted and called at properties with an onus on awareness and safety and also with a view to recruiting new coordinators.

In 2015 they have announced 100% coverage of St. Michaels Ward and then some months later East Wickham Ward, both are in Welling, Kent and both have seen a virtual zero domestic burglary since their announcement.

Bexley will shortly be able to announce that they have reached 1,000 registered coordinators in the Borough as well.

They have been manning stands at special events in Bexley and on special occasions have moved to targeted areas such as Welling, Sidcup and Erith and there are plans to continue to meet the public in this way warning them of impending crime trends and offering safety advice.

This will include handing out a specially printed SCAM list which includes 13 scams. Originally 5,000 of these were printed and it has been so successful there has been a reprint of an additional 1,500. They have also been distributed to residents in our active areas as well as being left libraries for distribution to the public.

We encourage our local police to be part of our community engagement in the same way as we are keen supporters of “Beat Policing” and feel that such community policing is the best way to fight crime.

The pro-active committee of around 13 meet regularly to discuss the work of the Watch and the best way forward as well as agreeing expenditure for the coming month’s projects. They are a good cross-borough representation and of varied age groups.

Bexley is proud of their organisation and feel it could be a good template for other London Boroughs. Their ethos is to maximise efforts on community engagement.

Dana Wiffen
Chairman
Bexley Borough NNWA