Community spirit and being neighbourly has become stronger in Hertfordshire throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as residents have had to deal with much hardship and sadness.
The force is once again supporting national Neighbourhood Watch Week, which starts on Saturday 5 June with the key messages of staying connected and ‘listen.talk.do!’
Residents across the county are being encouraged to reconnect, celebrate what’s local and listen to their neighbours, talk and reach out to help support people locally and help the recovery effort with something that helps everyone, for example a litter pick or a COVID-19 safe street party.
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 Online Watch Link (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.
Detective Chief Inspector Pete Frost, lead for community safety in Hertfordshire, said: ‘We are very fortunate in Hertfordshire to have over 160,000 members signed up to OWL, which is more than a third of all households in the county. But we would love to see more people sign up to OWL and Neighbourhood Watch. OWL has been crucial over the past 15 months in updating residents about a number of important issues throughout the pandemic from how we have policed lockdown to details of scams and frauds, domestic abuse helplines and appeals to trace missing people.’
He continued: ‘This is not down to luck though. The success of OWL is down to volunteers who have worked tirelessly to promote the scheme to help prevent and reduce crime and reassure the public in Hertfordshire. This work is also supported by local PCSOs and policing teams.’
Herts Watch, the umbrella committee for Neighbourhood Watch in Hertfordshire, has been led by Sue Thompson who after 17 years of volunteering is retiring from the role. Deputy Chairman Keith Batchelor will be stepping in until a permanent person is recruited.
DCI Frost said: ‘Alongside her strong strategic and leadership work, Sue has inspired many people to volunteer as well as spending many hours physically assembling thousands of Neighbourhood Watch membership packs, saving the force thousands of pounds. We are very grateful for her outstanding contribution to crime prevention, and I would like to thank her for her support and contribution.’
Hertfordshire has one of the largest and best Neighbourhood Watch schemes in the country with over 35 per cent of households in Hertfordshire already signed up to OWL.
DCI Frost added: ‘If you are not already signed up, now is a really good time to join OWL and it’s so quick, simple and effective. Go to www.owl.co.uk/herts and add your postcode and email address. All you have to do is take on board the crime prevention messages, keep an eye out for your neighbours and call us if you suspect a crime is in progress on 999. Otherwise, we ask residents to report online at www.herts.police.uk/Report or call 101.’
Chair of Herts Watch Keith Batchelor said: ‘The pandemic has shown the strength of OWL and Hertfordshire is unique in having so many residents signed up. Now we are coming out of lockdown we are running local events to support the national ‘listen.talk.do!’ during Neighbourhood Watch Week including OWL live chats in Bennetts End, Hemel Hempstead, on Saturday 12 June and a Neighbourhood Watch event at Sainsbury’s in Potters Bar on Wednesday 9 June. Further events across the county will be advertised.”
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd added: ‘I am proud that we have the best supported Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the country, with more residents and businesses signed up than anywhere else. The system relies on neighbours looking out for one another and it helps prevent crime and catch offenders. I would urge those who have not done so to join and help your community.’
If you have some experience of community work and would like to apply to volunteer for a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator role in Watford, Welwyn Hatfield or Dacorum, please contact Keith Batchelor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.