Lockdown has tested every one of us during the coronavirus pandemic but one thing that has become stronger is community spirit and being neighbourly.
The Force is supporting national Neighbourhood Watch Week, which starts on Sunday (7 June), with the key messages of ‘be kind,’ ‘connect,’ ‘share’ and ‘support’ each other.
Residents across the county are being encouraged to make that extra effort and be kind to their neighbours by picking up the phone, organising an online social or having a doorstep chat in line with the national ‘stay connected’ campaign.
As part of this, award-winning cartoonist Tony Husband has created bespoke cartoons on the four key messages for the celebratory week, which will be shared on social media throughout the week from Sunday 7 June to Saturday 13 June.
‘It has obviously been much harder for us to reach out to our communities, especially when stricter lockdown measures were in place,’ explained Detective Chief Inspector Chris Treadwell from the Crime Reduction and Community Safety Unit. ‘But we are really lucky in Hertfordshire to have so many people already signed up to our Online Watch Link (OWL) who have been receiving our messages via email. The important communications have included how we are policing in lockdown, details of scams and frauds, domestic abuse helplines and missing people.’
He said: ‘If you are not already signed up, now is a really good time to join OWL and it’s so quick, simple and effective. All we ask is that people take on board the crime prevention messages, keep an eye out for their neighbours and call us on 999 if they suspect a crime is in progress. Otherwise, we ask residents to report online at herts.police.uk/Report or call 101.’
Hertfordshire has one of the best Neighbourhood Watch schemes in the country with over 35 per cent of household in Hertfordshire already signed up to OWL at owl.co.uk/herts.
Chair of Herts Watch Sue Thompson said: ‘Neighbourhood Watch is a long-established concept of simply looking out for your neighbours and helping the police by being the ‘ears and eyes’ within your local area. It’s about prevention, reassurance and safety. By signing up to OWL, you will receive relevant emails about issues within your local area, for example a nearby burglary or details of thefts from vehicles with useful crime prevention advice.’
She said: ‘Normally we would be holding local public events across the county to mark NHW week but, for obvious reasons, we are not able to do that this year. This week we plan to share with you the value of NHW in our community and to celebrate with you some of the fantastic fundraising projects and other supportive initiatives that have been or are happening in your area.’
Some areas within the county have much more people signed up to OWL. Elstree became the first village within the county to get almost all households signed up to OWL. Determined PCSO John Hainsworth spent two years walking the streets, knocking on every door, meeting new people and more importantly helping to reduce crime. In April 2018, there were 670 residents signed up. Now there are 1,781 households in the scheme – above the number of households from the last Census. Amongst the people signed up included the High Commissioner in the UK for Equatorial Guinea, Her Excellency Maria Jesus Diallo Besari.
PCSO Hainsworth said: ‘Crucially since OWL membership increased, burglaries and car thefts significantly decreased. This is no coincidence. There were no burglaries for 115 days at the end of 2018 in Elstree (4 September until 28 December).’
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd added: ‘I have continued to invest in Neighbourhood Watch and am proud that residents have responded by making it one of the best supported groups in the country. There are many examples where crimes have been prevented and offenders caught because of OWL messages and neighbours looking out for each other. It is easy to sign up and you will not only help your community, but also reduce your chances of becoming a victim of crime.’