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6 April 2011, 17:04
Bedfordshire's new Chief Constable has publically thrown his weight behind an initiative that enables residents to organise high visibility civilian patrols in their own neighbourhoods.
Alf Hitchcock, who joined the force at the beginning of this year, has written an internet article that describes Street Watch as having “huge potential” nationally.
In a front page comment on www.street-watch.org.uk/ Mr Hitchcock says: “It is a great way for the community to work with the police and make Bedfordshire even safer.
“Street Watch is community empowerment in action and its benefits are clear – crime and anti-social behaviour prevention, reassurance and increased community cohesion.
“Street Watch has huge potential nationally and I am proud that the citizens of Bedfordshire have been so keen to form local schemes and lead the way on this.”
Mr Hitchcock spoke out as the wheels were put in motion to launch the tenth Street Watch scheme in Bedfordshire since April last year – making it one of the most successful projects in the country.
A public meeting to rally support was held at Shillington Village Hall at 7.30pm on Thursday (March 31), just a week after another successful scheme was launched in Clifton.
Street Watch, which was originally launched in Hampshire and Surrey, involves local people taking it in turns to patrol communities in high visibility vests to provide reassurance and talk to residents.
It is emphasised they are not doing the job of police officers or PCSOs and have no more power than ordinary citizens. Instead the purpose of Street Watch is to prevent crime by increasing visibility, maintaining effective communication and reporting to police and increasing feelings of safety and community spirit.
Each scheme relies on Street Watch finding coordinators and volunteers prepared to give two hours each month and keep the national web site up to date with what they are doing and where. They also have to be vetted at the same level as police volunteers.
Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant Lisa Johnson, who has helped oversee the Bedfordshire project, said: “Street Watch is a classic example of the community and police working in partnership to reduce crime and increase feelings of safety.
“In Marston Moretaine – our first scheme – we saw a 12 per cent decrease in anti-social behaviour and a six per cent decrease in overall crime between May and November 2010. While we cannot positively attribute all this to Street Watch, it is plain the scheme has had an extremely positive impact on the village.
“We would urge anyone interested in setting up a similar scheme in their area to get in touch.”
Anyone interested can contact Sgt Johnson direct on 01582 473333, through the main switchboard on 01234 841212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org