Time to bring back the watch

A POPULAR scheme that encouraged neighbours to keep an eye on each other’s homes should be revisited in light of a disturbing number of break-and-enters around the city.

Former Tamworth Neighbourhood Watch participant Errol Bourne said there was a place for it again after reports of a so-called vigilante group in Kingswood Estate and another in Windmill Hill, formed by increasingly frustrated residents.

“It’s had an effect before and I think it could have an effect again ... I think in this day and age it would be very useful,” Mr Bourne said.

But he said it could be an uphill battle to start the scheme again because modern life meant usually both partners in a household worked these days and so no one was at home to observe goings-on on a daily basis.

“We need people to step forward and take the guiding action,” Mr Bourne said.

The scheme, although still in effect in many towns across Australia, had died a natural death in Tamworth years ago because of a lack of interest from the community.

But times were different then, too, Mr Bourne said.

“There wasn’t much to work at: the crime wave was not anything like it is now,” he said.

“The biggest problem we have here is the judiciary, because the penalties don’t fit the crime and they’ve got to be revamped – and perpetrators have to realise that if you commit the crime you’ll be punished accordingly.”

Acting Oxley Superintendent Jeff Budd said it was not really a matter of having something with an official title one could resurrect.

“It doesn’t need a title; it’s about community,” Superintendent Budd said.

“It’s about taking ownership and taking care of one another and keeping a look out on your surrounds and others’. It’s really about community looking after one another.

“The principles are the same as before – it’s about the community being vigilant, reporting when they see something.

“If they give us information then we can act on it, if they don’t do anything, we can’t.”

Neighbourhood Watch Australasia president Steve Batterham said his organisation supported the use of social media to enhance community crime prevention but believed nothing could replace face-to-face interaction.

“Neighbourhood Watch gives people a reason and confidence to go next door and talk to their neighbours,” Mr Batterham said.

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