Neighourhood security groups losing steam
NEARLY 100 Neighbourhood Watch groups have gone off the radar, causing some concern to the police.
Over the years, the numbers have fallen from about 151 to just 69 active ones at present and Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin admitted yesterday this was a worrying trend.
He told the opening session of the Neighbourhood Watch Conference 2010 that the trend reflected a lack of interaction among neighbours – and this could work to the advantage of criminals.
The Neighbourhood Watch network has been widely credited with deterring criminal activity and helping police solve burglary, theft and other crimes.
But Dottin told the meeting at Accra Beach Hotel & Resorts that “apathy” and “civil disengagement” were among the reasons why so many of the Neighbourhood Watch groups “withered and died”.
He made the point that “the fear of crime” which had triggered the formation of some Neighbourhood Watch groups would not be enough to sustain them.
The police’s public relations officer Inspector David Welch said in an interview afterwards: “Neighbourhood Watches usually start because of some concern about crime.
“But we find that when that threat is reduced people begin saying there is no reason to come together. Some people also say they are challenged for time to take part in the group activities because of work, business, family and other commitments, so meetings suffer.”
According to Welch, the conference was called to determine “what can be done to bring the dormant and defunct watch groups back on board and to sustain all watches”.
An absence of, or limited, succession planning and an inability to attract a substantial number of youths were among the weaknesses of the Neighbourhood Watch groups, as identified at the meeting.
Director of the National Task Force on Crime Prevention, Cheryl Willoughby, suggested the establishment of a Youth Crime Watch, saying young people had their own issues and agenda.
Crime prevention officer with the Royal Barbados Police Force, Station Sergeant O’Neal Small, said Neighbourhood Watch groups had to find ways to attract young people and encourage them to take up leadership positions.
He called the network of watchers important, saying that when the groups were “active and vibrant” they helped to keep crime down.
They served as one of the most cost effective ways of reducing crime, he said. (TY)