It has certainly been a long time since we produced a Newsletter, and for some of our more recent recruits, this may be the first ever. The aim is to publish a regular edition one month before each of our planed Coordinators` Meetings.
We intend to hold three Coordinators` meetings this year at the Rufus Centre, Flitwick. The proposed dates are Saturday 22nd March, Saturday 7th June and Saturday 27th September.
They will last from 10am to 1pm, with doors open at 9am. The programme will include a high profile speaker, such as the Chief Constable, plus briefings, an open forum and stands. Any suggestions on possible speakers will be VERY welcome. Our target is 100 participants (YOU), so please put the dates in your diary now. Further details will follow but the essential ingredient is you.
FUNDING OF NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH (NHW)
After much discussion with the Police and Crime Commissioner (P&CC) each NHW organisation, ourselves, Luton and Bedford and District, has been allocated £3000, with a further £15000, available for joint projects between the 3 Associations. So far we have identified a need for improved equipment for start-up presentations (laptop and projector), publicity (leaflets and adverts), membership cards and members booklets. Money could also be available for venue hire. Ideas on how we might spend this additional funding are welcome. We intend to submit a bid for the next financial year, in concert with the other two Associations.
This is a subject that we will ask the Chief Constable to address at one of our Saturday meetings, but it is fair to say that policing in Bedfordshire does not get any easier, and this is particularly so in Central Bedfordshire. Each Community Policing Team (CPT) is managed by a Sergeant and staffed by a variable number of PCSOs, who are deployed according to the priority of the task. Although we may not like it I am sorry to say that the days of “our local policeman” are past and unlikely to return. The way around this problem depends, largely, on the working relationships we can achieve with the CPTs. To that end we would encourage you to get to know the Sergeant and as many of the PCSOs as possible. Don`t wait for them, take the initiative. We are constantly emphasising this link between you and your CPT, at all levels, but it won`t work unless you also get involved. We can`t criticise them for lack of commitment and response if we are guilty ourselves. The need to establish a good working relationship with your local CPT is essential, for both organisations.
SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT (SLA)
We are now very close to finalising a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Bedfordshire Police. The SLA will set out the recognised and agreed relationships between the Police and ourselves, as a contribution towards promoting community safety. In particular it covers the working relationship between the CPT and the NHW Coordinators and Schemes. Copies will be available when it is finalised and it will be available on our website.
THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER (P&CC)
Our dealings with the P&CC have been in the areas of funding and NHW organisation. The P&CC wishes to see a coherent Watch organisation across the County, covering NHW, Street Watch and Speedwatch. We have emphasised that although NHW, Street Watch and Speedwatch all contribute to community safety they are very different organisations and operate in different areas and ways. The debate continues. We have, however, met one of his requests, in that the three NHW Associations have agreed to revive a County-wide NHW Steering Group to improve inter-Association communication and keep in step with one-another.
Towards the end of last year Lynne was engaged by the P&CC as the County NHW Support Officer within his team. She has a dual role, first to work with the P&CC and the 3 NHW Associations to develop NHW Schemes across the county and second to promote NHW by increasing community involvement. She is responsible to the P&CC and to the Chairs of the 3 Associations. For us she acts as a central communication point to and from the P&CC and seeks to coordinate the work of the Associations and the P&CC`s office. She continues her previous role of channelling external enquiries regarding NHW to the appropriate Association. However, this can occasionally, bypass our existing contact channels and, we would, therefore, ask you to direct your enquiries to us directly by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE ASSOCIATION WEBSITE
Our website is an excellent source of information. It covers a very wide field of NHW matters including the latest NHW news, how to set up a Scheme, the basics of home security, our links with our partner organisations and our contact details. It should be your first port of call for any NHW problem or query. Do use it, it is invaluable.
LINKS WITH STREET WATCH AND SPEEDWATCH
This is a constantly recurring topic, both in regard to organisation and finance. As already mentioned under the SLA, although all our organisations contribute to community safety we each operate in a different way. We have had to resist the P&CC`s wish to lump us all together under a general “Watch” heading and this has continued into the ongoing discussion on the content of the SLA. We would prefer to see our SLA limited to the relationship between us and the Police. The debate continues. We are considering putting together a Memorandum of Understanding with Street Watch and Speedwatch to establish how we may help each other. Watch this space.
We try to maintain a stand-alone data base of all Area and Street Coordinators. At least that is the objective but it does not seem to quite work out that way. We depend entirely on you, the Coordinators, keeping us up to date. Last year we did a review, through Ringmaster, and got about a 50% response. That means that we have some 300 Schemes on the data base about which we are in some doubt. Are they active or not? We do need to know, so that we can offer help in areas of weakness and reinforce the areas of success. Please use the cbnwatch email (see above) to tell us how your scheme is faring We depend on Area Coordinators knowing their Street Coordinators and Street Coordinators knowing their members. Please note that we do not have a central database of membership and we rely on our Street Coordinators to maintain their own membership and contact lists.
Ringmaster is the Police messaging service and is used to send out information on reported crimes across the County. You can ask to be informed of crimes specifically in your area, preferably by email but some members receive the information by phone. If you are not already signed up to it then, I strongly recommend that you join and encourage all your members to do so also. You can join on line through our website or by phoning 01234 842253 or 842341 or 84225. We can also send NHW messages through Ringmaster, as we did for our database review. Do let us know if you have any problems with Ringmaster as it is going through a difficult time just now due to lack of staff. Budget restrictions are also affecting the provision of this service, as well as many other Police activities.
Neighbourhood Watch (and combined NHW and SmartWater) signs are available through me. They are mounted on lampposts and are a visible indication that the NHW is active in that area. Agreement has to be obtained from the Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC), but the process is quite straightforward. Street Coordinators should contact me by email at email@example.com - giving the street name and lamppost number(s) and I will then clear it with CBC. Once agreed you can fix the sign to the lamppost, using the cable ties provided. The sign must be mounted at least 2.1 metres above the ground, so that it does not present a hazard to pedestrians.
Do you know about SmartWater? It is a forensic system, used to mark and protect valuable items. The liquid carries a forensic code which is registered to a specific address. Details are on their website www.smartwater.com. Discount prices are available through NHW and for us there is no annual registration fee. For stolen items marked with SmartWater and recovered by the Police there is a 100% conviction rate.
Central Bedfordshire Council (Community Safety Partnership) have instituted a programme of “Pride-In Days”, recent examples have been at Sandy and Biggleswade Local Community Services such as the Town Council, the Police and the Fire Service, plus voluntary organisations set up stands, usually in the Market Square, and are available to discuss local issues and problems with the public. We use the opportunity to publicise NHW and recruit new Coordinators and members. The programme for 2014 has been discussed and we will let you know as soon as it is published. As always we will need your help for your local event.
THE STUDHAM EXERCISE
Towards the end of July last year we were informed that the P&CC was undertaking a "pilot project" in Studham to set up a new NHW scheme. In fact there were NHW schemes already operating in the village, but, nevertheless, we were able to provide proper NHW support and accompanied him around the village as he undertook a door-knocking exercise. Subsequently, a public meeting was held and Central Bedfordshire NHW were able to make a full presentation to residents and encourage membership of NHW.
Together with the Parish Council, our Area Coordinator in Studham has been able to establish a viable NHW organisation and we are considering using this village model for other similar areas. This seems particular viable in rural areas where there are diverse housing locations and it is often difficult to establish individual Street Schemes and Coordinators. To this end we are trying to get Kensworth, Whipsnade, Caddington and Slip End interested in such an arrangement.
There will be a public NHW presentation in Caddington on the 17th March, managed by the Central Bedfordshire Association and supported by the Parish Council. The P&CC has also been invited.
Although in its infancy, we would like other areas of Central Bedfordshire to consider similar village-wide schemes. Therefore, we would ask all Coordinators to identify any villages, or cluster of villages, that might benefit from this approach. We would, obviously, want to use the expertise that already exists and to encourage active participation and support from the Parish Councils.
STIR YOUR COUNCIL
NHW is a valuable asset in your community but it is often ignored by your Town or Parish Council. We have tried to interest them in what we can do for the community, without much response in most cases. I think that you might elicit a greater reaction by the more personal approach. IF you need any help to do this let us know and if you are successful we really would like to hear about it and how you managed it.