We’re crime fighters - not curtain twitchers

L-R Bob Combes, volunteer representative for Hampshire at South East Neighbourhood Watch; Carole Rudin; Tasha Hall, 28, of Blackburn Court; Patricia Criddle, 67, and Councillor Alan Scard.
L-R Bob Combes, volunteer representative for Hampshire at South East Neighbourhood Watch; Carole Rudin; Tasha Hall, 28, of Blackburn Court; Patricia Criddle, 67, and Councillor Alan Scard.
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Curtain twitching, spying on your neighbours and busy bodies. These used to be the first things that came to mind when talking about Neighbourhood Watch.

And that’s a lot of drapes being worn threadbare with around 42,000 households involved in schemes in Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham, Havant and Waterlooville.

Each of the 1,200 schemes in the area, which can be as small as just one road, covers on average 35 homes.

But Bob Combes, secretary of Gosport’s committee and the chairman of the Hampshire association, says the movement is about more.

He says it is about good neighbourliness and offering people, sometimes the most vulnerable in society, a way to stay safe – or just offer them a chance to socialise.

Bob, 65, said around 50 scheme co-ordinators rely on email to pass on information, while others are more reclusive.

He said: ‘We’re talking about the vulnerable – and that’s our agenda, to get schemes to support them, whether it’s single-parent families or old, disabled people.

‘We know vulnerable people in our community attract crime, whether it be doorstep crime or scams.

‘We try to say to the co-ordinators “you should identify those people ... and make yourself known to them”.’

The system relies on communication with the police, with officers updating residents on what’s going on.

Sergeant Lesley Meenaghan, of Gosport police station, said the schemes help this but they can work the other way too.

Earlier this year she let people in Gosport know about a rogue trader in the area.

Days later a 94-year-old man, of Privett Road, refused to deal with the trader at his doorstep. He had received the warning from his scheme co-ordinator.

Sgt Meenaghan said: ‘The rogue trader knocks at the door but because he’s been advised of it, he said “I know exactly who you are, you can get lost.”

‘I thought it was great. Neighbourhood Watch have good communication with the police about what’s happening and who to be aware of.’

Another incident this year, in Clayhall Road, Anglesey, Gosport helped police investigate a case where a woman complained of being stalked.

A resident had called the police after seeing a man looking through a window.

The police stopped him and took his name.

Sgt Meenaghan explains: ‘A neighbour told the lady he saw someone looking over the wall.

‘She then went to the police as she was being stalked.

‘If he hadn’t have phoned us up we wouldn’t have known the details of the man we stopped.

‘Because we knew his details, we could arrest him and deal with him.

‘Potentially we could have had an unsolved stalking and the consequences of that obviously could be quite worrying.’

Carole Rudin is the new chairwoman of Gosport Neighbourhood Watch.

She says when people hear from the police they are keen to keep an eye out.

Carole, 58, said: ‘When they send out the emails to our members people do start to keep a watch.

‘We’re not curtain twitchers but we keep an eye out on what’s going out along the road.’

And the committee in Gosport has decided to force itself into the digital age.

They have launched a Facebook page, where members can share warnings to a wider audience.

Younger members are joining the association – and even a magician runs a scheme in Oval Gardens, Gosport.

But the main message from Bob and Carole is that they need people to see what is going on in their area.

‘The message we’re trying to promote all the time is, don’t ignore what’s going on,’ Bob adds.

‘What you see in your neighbourhood you will know what’s normal and what isn’t normal.

‘A policeman standing there wouldn’t know that.’

‘So it’s trying to support the police, and then picking up the phone.’

Bob and Carole both say people are often put off from calling the police but their message is simple.

Call 999 if a crime is happening and 101 for all else.

To set up a group contact:

Portsmouth Neighbourhood Watch Association: email pompeynwa@hotmail.co.uk or call (023) 9284 1461.

Havant Neighbourhood Watch Association: Email havantnwa@hotmail.co.uk

Waterlooville and District Neighbourhood Watch Association: call on (023) 9289 2627.

Fareham and District Neighbourhood Watch Association: email david@fdnwa.co.uk

Gosport Neighbourhood Watch Association: email gnw.rudin@virginmedia.com or call (023) 92 583 637, or search their name on Facebook.

YOUNGER people are needed to help Neighbourhood Watch Schemes.

That’s the call from Carole Rudin, chairwoman of the association in Gosport.

And mum-of-three Tasha Hall, 28, of Blackburn Court, Rowner, has certainly answered it.

Along with neighbour Patricia Criddle, 67, she set up the scheme, after a Rowner residents’ association meeting.

But they have not set up CCTV and infrared recording equipment to catch criminals, instead holding barbecues.

The pair put on an event for their court, which has just 12 homes but is used as a walkthrough in the area.

‘It’s a good way to start up a Neighbourhood Watch, if you’re friendly with your neighbours the communication is easier,’ says co-ordinator Tasha.

‘They’re quite happy to give you their phone number or email address and I’m quite happy to watch a neighbour’s house if they were to go away.’

The pair did not set up the scheme to tackle a particular problem – instead just wanting to get to know people.

Patricia is Tasha’s deputy and has lived in the court for more than 20 years.

She added: ‘When you get to know your neighbours, that’s when it becomes a nice place to live.

‘Not everybody is that lucky but this court always has been.’

And Tasha says others can set up a scheme very easily.

She said: ‘You don’t have to have any special skills.

‘It is so simple, there’s not a lot of hard work involved, it is just common sense.

‘You get a lot of support from your co-ordinator too.’

THE police are backing people running neighbourhood watch schemes.

Sergeant Lesley Meenaghan, pictured, runs the safer neighbourhood team covering Alverstoke, Anglesey, Privett and Elson in Gosport.

She is keen to tell people what is going on in their areas, so she can warn them and get their help – and she has been pleased to find that residents are eager to get involved.

‘People don’t pull the curtains and ignore what’s going on,’ she said.

‘I’d like to think when a Neighbourhood Watch person is walking down the road they’re stood up, looking around and interested in what’s going on.

‘It’s just being vigilant, it’s not a huge commitment. It’s just to be aware.

‘It’s just a phone call or an email.’