A new approach in a new age

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Neighbourhood Watch contributes to community health and will be the driving force for community cohesion.

We are all neighbours in a multi-cultural society of contrasting lifestyles and community groups.

Tower Hamlets is the inner city borough, which contrasts completely the traditional rural village.

Looking at my own family the village consisted of around 500 residents who all owned their houses and resided there for hundreds of years. It was a ready-made, already functioning community. Neighbourhood Watch came naturally with the desire to work together and protect the assets of the individual and the community. Everyone knew everybody else.

In the village you probably have 100 home owners to build a Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets we have

  • an area of 7633 square miles
  • population of 325.000
  • equally large ethnicity of white & mixed white followed by Bangladeshi
  • List of 50 approved and affordable housing providers
  • List of 200 estate agents
  • plus luxury housing developments

The difference in communtiy couldn’t be bigger.

People also no longer reside in a dwelling for life generally, they move and change employments more often.

Building a Neighbourhood Watch community needs a new approach.

The first task is to approach all residents and make them aware that joining a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme will equip them with the knowledge they need to fend off

  • anti-social behaviour
  • risk of theft and damage to property
  • online fraudulent phishing scams.

Knowing that a lot of residents come to live in Britain for the first time, do not know the language, practise a variety of religions and do not know much of the structure of law and order, we need to start somewhere to familiarise residents with their best options.

There are six options to approach everyone

  1. Housing
  2. Employment
  3. Education
  4. Internet communications
  5. Social meetings
  6. Safer Neighbourhoods

1. Housing. If all those who provide abode to residents in Tower Hamlets show residents the ability to connect to police communications via OWL and National Neighbourhood Alert messages from Neighbourhood Alert, they are already able to get safety messages. It is my aim to get all housing providers, whether estate agents or social landlords, to tell all residents, at the point of moving in, that Neighbourhood Watch schemes are available in the area.

2. Employment. Work place environments should remind people to connect to a local Neighbourhood Watch schemes to improve the safety of their home and their journey to and from work. I’ll need to get in touch with various organisations about that. There are  large employers like the Council, NHS and Canary Wharf, TfL plus a lot of small business. People no longer work 9 – 5, many work shifts, weekends and often change jobs.

3. Education. There are many schools in Tower Hamlets. A wide range of providers from private schools to Free schools. Police officers are stationed in many schools and can reach pupils to steer them towards responsible citizenship. Perhaps community cohesion through Neighbourhood Watch could be on the curriculum.

4. Internet Communications. The web is available for everyone to use. But, there is a lot of information out there and people may find it difficult to actually see the information required. I have set up this website for residents and also a new Twitter account. Seeing that in Tower Hamlets only 50 % of residents currently use the Internet and only 11% use APPS, we need to bridge that time until all have access to the WWW with approaching communities where they are.

5. Social meeting. Large swathes of the population are meeting up in churches. I’ll contact major faith groups in Tower Hamlets to ask them to promote Neighbourhood Watch to their communities.

6. Safer Neighbourhoods. The Met Police currently makes 2 SNT officers available per ward that is a maximum of 40 officers for 20 wards for a population of 325.000. All Neighbourhood Watch groups need to be verified and communicated with either directly  or via the Safer Neighbourhood Panels, which meet 3 times per year. The Neighbourhood Watch Association asks all interested to do as much preparatory work as possible via the Association and involve the police officers for the final agreements and setting up procedure. We must remind ourselves that OWL is only used by 12 Greater London borougths at present. It is used by the Met Police to distribute messages to local communities.

Wish me luck and please do come forward and contact me if you can help.

Remember: We are all Neighbours

Getting results

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Following a recent posting in a Tower Hamlets residents based group on Facebook I was inundated with messages of support from local residents.

The main emphasis of questions was, how do I help stop ASB, drug dealing and other crimes in the area? Also problems like homelessness and council maintenance are big concerns.

Attention to problems happens because of 5 reasons:

  1. large-scale anti-social behaviour
  2. repetitive crime like burglary and drug-dealing
  3. Council services
  4. Homeless
  5. High profile crime like murder in the area (this list is not exhaustive)

Achieving results on problem category 1 and 2.

Our borough is divided into 20 wards. Each ward has a ward panel and that ward panel decides in quarterly meetings, whose area gets preferred attention from the SNT teams like extra patrols.

If your area has imminent problems you need to show how bad it is.

To do this you need to report as much as possible with as much evidence as possible. Start a Neighbourhood Watch Group and get as many people as possible complaining. Numbers count.

I strongly recommend that all problems not needing 999 calls to be reported online in three ways.

  1. Report it online on the Council website here
  2. Report it directly to the Met Police website here
  3. Report directly to your SNT online method
    1. Go to Met Police website
    2. click on your area
    3. Input your post code
    4. Your local SNT team will appear
    5. Scroll down the page to Introducing your Safer Neighbourhoods Team
    6. click contact us
    7. Submit report

All 3 methods will result in being given a reference number and your case going onto official statistics, which are counted towards calculating the needs for more officers.

To provide pictorial evidence follow this page.

For long-standing problems we recommend completing an evidence sheeet THNWA_reporting_sheet, once complete submit to your local SNT per email.

For problems with category 3

Download the app called Love your Neighbourhood on Google for Apple, choose Tower Hamlets, you can submit pics in evidence of your problem.

For problems with category 4

Download the Streetlink app to report homeless people and get them some help.

Category 5 

Only 999 calls are appropriate.

 

Private patrols like Shomrim

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Here is an excerp from a Post on Facebook yesterday: (name of user withheld)

Here’s all the location as far as I’m aware and I have witnessed these asb drugs alcohol and other crimes: Berner Estate, Collingwood Estate, shadwell gardens, solander Gardens, Glamis Estate, locksley Estate, chicksand Estate, Cranbrook Estate, willcrooks Estate, Rogers Estate, Pitsea Estate, Limehouse Estate, barkantine Estate, millharbour Estate, samuda Estate, devons road Estate, Granby Estate, Wapping Riverside Estate. Tower hamlets homes, poplar harca, one housing, thch, East end homes, Swan housing, providence Row housing, Southern housing, gateway housing are all aware of these problems on their estates and properties.i Have Been reporting crimes for the last 15 years on 101/999 and to LBTH and landlords. its like a never ending issue and it’s ongoing. We really need additional extra neighbourhood community patrols. In London Borough of Hackney and Haringey they have a volunteers called SHOMRIM I believe we should have something like them very similar.”

Even though I have written to the Interfaith Forum Tower Hamlets to build up Neighbourhood Watch groups within their faith communities, I do not support private patrols.

There is a simple reason. Anybody patrolling and doing Citizen’s Arrests will increase their own chances of arrest. The Wikipedia entry of Shomrim shows the problems this group’s encountered.

“Some Shomrim members in the United States have been convicted of assaults and misdemeanors against people from outside their community, particularly African-Americans.[4][5][6][7]

I would only support patrols from fully trained professional persons. I do not support volunteer patrols, which then are themselves in danger of arrest and if it is done by faith groups, that automatically will increase the anxiety of racism towards other faiths.

Security Guards usually undergo rigorous training. I know, My son was working as Custody Officer for SERCO and his training schedule was gruelling. Not only did he get a lot of training, he also had to show extreme emotional level-headedness. He now works in security for a blue-chip company with hard shift schedules and would not have the time or the energy to also patrol streets in his time off.

I really advise against private patrols in difficult areas such as Tower Hamlets. We are better off having good Neighbourhood Watch groups and constantly argue for more professional police patrols. As stated gated communities, which can afford private guards within their gated community, who are fully trained are another story.

NW awareness

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I had been building up Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets from 2011 onwards until I passed on the chair to a fellow resident who promptly dissolved the Association. My daughter’s swimming career occupied me fully for some time as a performance sport is very time-consuming if the child is below the age of 16. Sports stars travel extensively all over the country to compete. Parents usually help to be officials and the sport of swimming needs a lot of officials.

However during that time the awareness of being able to build local watch groups has slumped. People don’t know that they need to lobby the Safer Neighbourhood Panels for extra police attention if things get bad in their ward.

The OWL system is online and people need to search for it online to find it.

The sheer amount of websites and blogs available today makes it hard for a busy London working person to find the time to search for the necessary information.

Neighbourhood Watch has to become much more user friendly.

Yesterday, I went onto a Facebook Group specifically formed for Tower Hamlets residents and people poured their hearts out over the problems.

I’ve been told that despite living in an area for over three years, they have never been made aware that Neighbourhood Watch is possible. That’s despite contact with SNT officers.

In other areas people did not know that Ward Panels decide policing priorities. I am very determined to increase people’s ability to stand up for law and order.

Well lets not base anything on hearsay but it proves that online presence alone doesn’t make people aware. You need to reach people where they are and how they understand it.

The small amount of officers makes the job for the police very hard, they need to spend time on the absolute essential. I live in the part of the borough with the least population density but areas like Whitechapel, Algate (already towards City Police), Mile End, Wapping, in fact all those central and south of the borough, do have the same square metre areas as the thinner populated areas and not more officers.

ASB and drug dealing thrives where CCTV doesn’t work and officers never patrol.

I am currently starting again to raise awareness and tell people that actually building a Neighbourhood Watch group will strengthen people’s resolve.

Connecting with Neighbourhood Watch

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The demography of Tower Hamlets’ occupants has changed.

The previous main residents were long-term assured council tenants who resided in flats for long periods or life.

Now tenancy agreemends tend to be shorter.

Council tenants usually have three types of tenancies

Introductory – Flexible – Secure

Many more residents now rent from private owners or bought leasehold properties.

People come and go much more frequently than previously.

All that makes it harder to establish Neighbourhood Watches because people move about more often in such a busy, metropolitan environment.

I am in the process of writing to all lettings and housing management organisations to ask them to introduce Neighbourhood Watch to all their new residents.

Landlords will appreciate that Neighbourhood Watch members are the best insurance against Anti-social behaviour and crime within their properties.

report all crimes

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I had the very unfortunate duty to report one of my own children for committing a crime.

I can’t apply two different measures; one for me and my family and friends and one for all the rest.

Especially when we as parents spend 18 years and more; nowadays it’s more up to 25 to nurture our children and help them along, there comes a point, that when your own child turns away from you, doesn’t want to seek advice any longer and starts listening to bad influences. If you know about it, report it.

Because if you tried everything you could, sought medical and all other help available, to no vail, you will need to take that step to report a crime if you know about it.

As a parent, I’ve always believed in the best in my child, always went out of my way to help with all sorts of problems and now I have become a target of abuse and been threatened, using language that we now only know from terrorist connections from the media.

We reside in the direct vicinity of the school, which Shamima Begum and her friends attended, the spread of terrorist rethoric is a danger in this borough.

Especially here in Tower Hamlets, radicalisation is a very grave and imminent danger. The rhetoric is what gives it away first and foremost. If you hear your children or friends talk about things using ‘terrorist language’, report it.

It is definitely never a joke or funny when someone threatens you using vile and terrorist language or threatens with terrorist retaliation, not even as a joke.

You cannot help yourself, your cause or your child, friends or family if you ignore it and think: “Let’s report others but not my own”. Shamima Begum could have been saved from going to Syria, had the police been notified of concerns. Sometimes reporting is the one way to save a person.

We already can rely on a lot of help from professional agencies, e.g. crime and hate prevention in schools and the community, learning help in schools, yet if all that still didn’t help and your own child chooses to mix with people of that kind, then it is time to report it.

You cannot prevent a spread of terrorism if you do not stop it wherever it occurs. Ignorance means tolerance.

 

We are all neighbours

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Tower Hamlets is a densely populated and very busy neighbourhood. We hardly know whose moved in or out in the next house or street. The vast majority of our borough does not have gated communities.

It doesn’t matter what creed, colour, religion, gender, wealth-bracket we are. What we all have got in common is that we want to enjoy a peaceful life in our neighbourhood.

The more we look out for each other and strengthen our determination the more can we support each other in recognising the signs of problems and draw up an early strategy to combat the rot setting into our neighbourhoods.

Often just reporting something odd is hard for some people to do, finding the courage to write that email, pick up the phone or talk to a police officer in the street. Not feeling intimidated when strange people congregate in our street or staircase, is an important first step to overcome fear.

Taking down details of events and keeping a log of when things happened with descriptions of those causing us unpleasant fears.

There are many agencies that can help solve almost any problem, we just need to make the time to take that first step and report.

Reporting can be done anonymously or using a watch coordinator who can pass on a message. However in urgent situations people always need to call the emergency services straightaway.

Strong communities are the best method to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

 

Patrols

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Any resident is allowed to walk their streets or organise patrols, even with Neighbourhood Watch regealia on view.

The question is how effective this is.

With high levels of knife and gun crime, it is likely that anybody wanting to cause harm will do so and we do not advocate that Neighbourhood Watch members put themselves in harms way.

Here in Tower Hamlets private patrols are strongly discouraged.

Any direct confrontations are strongly discouraged.

We do have some gated communities with wealthy residents who can afford their own private and professional patrols, which is highly effective and these are supported by NWN.

All areas who cannot afford to employ professional security guards, need to rely on police officers to patrol areas.

Anybody has the right to make a Citizens Arrest but that can lead to a backlash of being accused of keeping someone hostage or depriving another of their freedoms.

Charities carry out organised patrols to scour for homeless people in need of help.

There are some community groups who invented street art projects to re-claim their streets.

Generally it is best not to personally lecture wrong doers. I recommend to report to professional agencies.

The system of handing out ASB orders works fairly well. This moves people on or bans them from areas for certain amounts of time.

A sample looks like this:

“The London Borough of Tower Hamlets hereby gives notice of its intention to discharge a Public Spaces Protection Order under Section 61 (4) of the AntiSocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, such order being the …name of area….. Public Spaces Protection Order 2016. This PSPO will cease to have effect on …..date ……”

Tower Hamlets Council has a number of tools to deal with ASB.

These enforcement and support options include:

Click through to read details.

The more people report disturbing behaviour the higher will the priority become. Reporting is therefore the best option to achieve effective results.

To report problems most social housing providers have reporting tools of their own. To get a reference number report on the

council website

or the police website.

 

 

 

Your role with THNWA

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The only pre-requisite we have for Watch members is that they are formally registered with their local SNT teams and for new watches go through the registration process. You cannot become a Neighbourhood Watch by registering with OWL online.

As a watch coordinator in Tower Hamlets you are not expected to get out of your way to take part in meetings with Safer Neighbourhood Panels. Though if you can attend it would be very welcome.

As Neighbourhood Watch we cannot discriminate against coordinators who cannot attend meetings.

Therefore no roles are given within this organisation to people because of an ability to attend regular meetings.

We aim to communicate with anybody in a time-frame that suits them. Equally watch coordinators can communicate with their own watch community in a manner that suits them.

You can use WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram or personal meetings, go to your local pub, church or just for a walk, just to suit your own requirements best.

Neighbourhood Watch is a completely flexible system that is aimed to serve your local watch.

We value all our watch members as equally important whether you can attend meetings or not. There is no pressure at all.

We live in a very busy city environment and our residents work at all hours. Hardly anybody works  9 – 5 these days.

If you want to become a Watch member and/or coordinator you are not under any pressure to get out of your way to attend meetings.

You can contact your local SNT in many ways and the SNT officers even now hold virtual meetings, that you can attend from any location if your job allows.

We would not expect

  • a surgeon to drop their knives in a middle of an operation
  • a parent to leave their children
  • a car mechanic to abandon urgent repairs
  • a teacher to drop marking books
  • a person caring for the sick to abandon them

to attend a meeting for example. But we still would love you as a watch coordinator and help when you can.

Please therefore ignore all those demands by some SNB members that you need to attend regular meetings with SNT panels.

Neighbourhood Watch is an independent organisation, which is not run by OWL or any other organisation, it is under the umbrella of the Neighbourhood Watch Network.

We want you to feel comfortable within your own neighbourly community and fix your own watch in a way that suits you and your neighbours.

You need to apply common sense, tact and confidentiality when helping with your neighbourhood.

You may want to forward information to the SNT if you feel that further monitoring of concerning matters is warranted for your area. Personal confrontations are not advised nor welcome. There specialist reporting channels as listed on our Best Practise Page. If your follow the Ourwatch Facebook page. They constantly up-date the latest information.

If things get really bad, you ask your local ward panel to give priority to your area. You can contact the chair of your local SNT panel remotely or electronically.

There are certain rules on picture taking and keeping privacy rules. It is not advisable to endanger yourself whilst helping neighbours. Your local SNT officers will give advice on this. A quick word of advise is ‘always let somebody know where you are, when you go out to contact neighbours’.

In emergencies always dial 999, non emergencies 101, Anonymous reporting through Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111. Or report many incidences online at the Met Police website here.

 

 

The difference between OWL and Neighbourhood Watch

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There’s been a lot of discussion between people around what makes Neighbourhood Watch a special organisation.

Essentially Neighbourhood Watch is a  civilian organisation, which is led by people who volunteer to keept themselves and their neighbours safer.

Anybody working for the police can be a member of the local Neighbourhood Watch group where they live but they would be a member as a private individual.

The Police also do not share their information with Neighbourhood Watch as this is all very much confidential and protected by Data Protection.

The OWL communications system is used by the Police to contact subscribers about events like

  • Safer Neighbourhood Panel meetings
  • Bike marking events
  • Other public events to discuss public safety, led by the police
  • etc.

Because this OWL system is used by professional police officers, within the confidentiality rules of the policing service, the OWL system is not used by Neighbourhood Watch coordinators. At least not here in Tower Hamlets.

Anybody wanting to start a Neighbourhood Watch will have to do so in conjunction with the local SNT officers, who will

  • visit the persons interested in becoming a watch coordinator,
  • encourage the prospective coordinator to carry out canvassing of the neighbourhood,
  • sign a contract with the Neighbourhood watch
  • help with a constitution of the watch.

Only when a Neighbourhood Watch is formally verified by a local Safer Neighbourhood Policing Unit, will this watch be able to register with Ourwatch and then also become visible as watch group and can be entered into the OWL system for communications purposes.

Whilst individuals will be able to sign up with OWL to get the communications as on their mailing list, you cannot become a Neighbourhood Watch simply by registering with OWL on their mailing list.

It is extremely important that all Neighbourhood Watch coordinators remain private individuals and work as such together with police officers as civilians.

If you need further clarification for Tower Hamlets Residents please contact us using this form. To sign up for our mailing list please use this form.

To visit the national Neighbourhood Watch organisation please click here.