How to make your neighbourhood a safer place to live

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As presenter of Cowboy Builders, Beat The Burglar and Don’t Get Done, Get Dom, Dominic Littlewood has spent a good chunk of his career fighting for our rights, casting an eye over unscrupulous tradespeople and being on hand to ensure domestic disasters are averted.

And it’s for this reason, he’d make a very useful neighbour, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, not everyone will have the chance to actually live next door to Dom - however, as the face of a new campaign by Togethermutualinsurance.co.uk and Neighbourhood Watch, you can still tap into his useful insights.

The campaign’s encouraging people to set up local Neighbourhood Watch groups via apps, such as Facebook or WhatsApp, which allow communities to update each other on local goings-on.

‘All you’ve got to do is register your phone number into the group,’ says Littlewood. ‘You can leave at any time, there’s no contracts, no cost and everybody in the group will be able to read messages and respond to them if they want to.

‘It’s a very nice modern way of looking after yourself, your property and each other.’

JOINING FORCES

Far from being the preserve of curtain-twitchers, this set-up is designed to benefit everyone - it’s all about bringing Neighbourhood Watch schemes into modern day.

‘People founded these Neighbourhood Watch schemes 35 years ago and they were a great idea and crime went down, but we’ve moved onto the 21st century,’ notes Littlewood. ‘You can be online warning people by sending a message about a dubious character while sitting there in your pyjamas, slippers and rollers. It’s a way to protect ourselves and our community.’

To set up a group, he suggests printing out a few notices and knocking on neighbours’ doors to gauge interest in joining.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

And it’s not just about alerting suspicions; it’s also to foster community spirit.

For example, says Littlewood, a ‘little old lady down the street’ might put a message on there saying ‘can anyone get my shopping for me, because I can’t get out of bed this morning, my arthritis is killing me’.

‘It’s a modern way of saying, let’s bring back that community spirit of looking after each other,’ adds Littlewood. ‘Because as Brits, we love looking after people, don’t we?’

5 TOP TIPS

Not sure where to start? Here are Littlewood’s top tips to help foster that community spirit...

1. Get to know each other

An obvious one, but if you know each other by name, are aware of each others’ habits and have contact details for one another, it’s easier to spot when things seem a little awry.

2. Read up on local crime trends

If you know your area is particularly prone to bike theft, for example, you can alert neighbours who keep their bicycles in view.

3. Be a good neighbour

‘Keep an eye open for anyone who might have forgotten to lock windows, certainly on a ground floor,’ says Littlewood. ‘You can send them a message and say, ‘Hello Barbara, do you know you’ve left your window wide open? Are you in?’’

Same goes for spotting phones and bags on dashboards or in clear view, and car doors unlocked. And if you know your neighbours are away and can see their post and papers are piling up, take it in for them.

4. Look locally for other groups

There might be other support groups for your community already out there. If you live in an area with lots of older people, see if there’s an AgeUK handyperson scheme, whereby the charity carries out small household repairs and safety checks in homes.

5. Cameras

If you’re concerned, look into installing domestic CCTV around your home.