To candidates for Mayor of London

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We ask all candidates for Mayor of London to consider the positive effect Neighbourhood Watch has on any London borough and how they can improve communications with law enforcement agencies.

Our Police Force cannot intercept crime and catch criminals unless they get alerted to the wrong-doing and asked to intervene by victims of crime. Especially so as we have far less patrols, not enough CCTV and CCTV operators.

There is the national Neighbourhood Alert System, which also runs Ourwatch, the widely known communications hub for Neighbourhood Watch groups. Neighbourhood Alert and Neighbourhood Watch are used by 2.3 Million members and 90.000 co-ordinators. See our letter to the PCC here. for further information.

Data flow

Through the National Neighbourhood Alert system, all those registered can be reached instantly with just one message sent. However, since some Police forces decided to drop out of the National Neighbourhood Alert system and use OWL instead – these are mainly forces in London areas – this National Neighbourhood Alert system can no longer reach all subscribers automatically, unless they are dually registered with both OWL and National Neighbourhood Alert. All crime prevention messages we receive are generated by Neighbourhood Alert.

The vast majority of Police forces use Neighbourhood Alert as integral part of their operatoins and those in London, who dropped out of this, are no longer part of the National system.

In fact any message coming through National Neighbourhood Alert, has to be copied and pasted into the many small regional mailing lists by police officers in Tower Hamlets Safer Neighbourhood Teams, who are already under-staffed.

Tower Hamlets

We have one commander who has to run two boroughs, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

We have one inspector in Tower Hamlets who is responsible for 20 Safer Neighbourhoods.

10 years ago, Safer Neighbourhood Police Officers and PCSO officers used to come to the address of each person wanting to start a watch scheme and negotiate a contract with that person. That is no longer possible.

People register,
become co-ordinator
choose an area of their choice
create a scheme,
invite members,
people register
co-ordinators cannot interact with members
Co-ordinators cannot choose an area
Members cannot choose, which watch to join
Used by co-ordinators and membersUsed by Police and Council to send messages
to people on the OWL mailing list.
Mainly invites to SNT Panel meetings.

There is a stark difference in systems and those two systems simple do not fit together. The extra amount of work created through those two system working alongside each other is tremendous.

People have to be vetted and verified. In areas where OWL and Ourwatch work separately, that vetting and verification for Ourwatch users is done solely by volunteers if they are available. Police simply refuse to do the vetting, due to Met Police no longer paying a license to use Neighbourhood Alert but they pay OWL instead.

At present, police forces pay a license fee to use either Neighbourhood Alert/Ourwatch or OWL. The vast majority of British Police Forces use Neighbourhood Alert. It’s only a small cluster in London who use OWL.

Here in Tower Hamlets we cannot join into the glowing reviews about OWL. It doesn’t work for us. The THNWA has no access to the system. It speaks for itself that if a Neighbourhood Watch Association cannot get access to the main Police – Neighbourhood Watch Communications system, that there is something amiss.

We ask all the candidates and the PCC to put serious thought towards this because people and law enforcement need to work together to reduce crime and enable the prosecution of those who break the rules as to ensure law and order for all of us.

We ask the Mayor to meet with us, the Police and Council officials to come to an understanding of how best to share responsibilities and ensure benefit for all residents.

We want you to put aside party-political considerations, when it comes to Neighbourhood Watch and consider only the effective systems needed to administer Neighbourhood Watch to achieve good communications with law enforcement agencies and to ensure that all Neighbourhood Watch volunteers are vetted to satisfactory standards, whilst at the same time ensuring that people’s freedom to choose the watch and watch area they prefer.

Stopping people from using their Neighbourhood Watch model (as enabled with Ourwatch), stops them from being part of Neighbourhood Watch.