FAQs: Scheme approval
Q. Why do some schemes appear as ‘self-declared’ on the postcode search results, while others are shown as ‘verified by local NW volunteer’ or ‘verified by the police’?
A. Anyone can register a scheme on our Register, with themselves as the coordinator. However, some of these schemes might not be known or recognised locally. To reflect this, all schemes are shown as ‘self-declared’ until such time as they are approved by a Neighbourhood Watch and/or police administrator.
Q. Why don’t you just ‘vet’ schemes as they are registered, so that only recognised, legitimate schemes appear on the postcode search?
A. Schemes aren’t approved by NHWN staff in the national office, because they don’t have the local specific knowledge to determine whether a scheme is legitimate or not. Schemes are approved by local Neighbourhood Watch volunteers who have been trained to administer their section of the database, and have knowledge of local procedures for approving Watch schemes, which differ from one part of the country to another.
However, local volunteers have not yet come forward to cover all parts of England and Wales. This means that in some areas, all schemes appear as ‘self-declared’ because there is no administrator in place to verify them. If self-declared schemes didn’t appear on the map at all, it would be unfair on schemes which fall within those areas.
Q. Does this mean that ‘self-declared’ schemes aren’t legitimate schemes?
A. No, it just means that no NW administrator or police member of staff has been able to vouch for them as yet. This might be for several reasons:
Q. I manage a number of schemes and I know that some schemes in my area are legitimate, but they only appear on the map as ‘self-declared’. If I tell NHWN about them, can they mark them as ‘verified’ for me?
A. NHWN staff won’t mark schemes as ‘verified’, because it is inappropriate for that decision to be made at a national level. Schemes need to be approved locally, and the criteria for them appearing as ‘verified’ may also differ depending on the area where they are located. NHWN staff can put you in touch with the database administrator who covers your area, and they can make the decision as to whether to verify the schemes in question.
If none of the schemes in your area are appearing as ‘verified’, it is possible that your area is not covered by a local volunteer administrator. In that case, you might want to enquire about becoming an administrator yourself! This would mean that you could verify the schemes within your ‘patch’. Contact your Force Area Association Representative to find out more.
Q. My scheme is known to the local police and it is on their database. Why isn’t it showing as ‘verified by the police’?
A. The Register of Neighbourhood Watch schemes, which populates the postcode search, is held on a piece of software called Neighbourhood Alert. At present 14 police services out of the 43 in England and Wales hold a licence to use Neighbourhood Alert, with more to come on board shortly. Only police staff in areas that hold a licence can verify schemes on the system.
Q. Why can’t police members of staff from all areas have access to the Register so that they can verify schemes?
A. There are issues around data protection and accountability. If the police force in question hasn’t signed a licence agreement it might be difficult for any action to be taken against a member of staff misusing their access to data. The police and NHWN, although working closely together, are separate organisations and NHWN does not have any control over actions taken by police staff.
However, NHWN can give police colleagues to ability to mark schemes as ‘verified by local NW volunteer’.
Q. What about cases where someone has set up a scheme which isn’t functioning as an actual Neighbourhood Watch scheme, or where it has been set up for negative or deceptive reasons? If schemes can be ‘self-declared’, what is to stop that kind of scheme from registering on the site, and how will they be distinguished from other, legitimate, self-declared schemes?
A. We have a set of national Ethics & Standards Guidelines, and all our members are expected to abide by these in their representation of Neighbourhood Watch. We take inappropriate behaviour seriously and advise that anyone breaching these guidelines should not be recognised as a scheme coordinator, either locally or nationally.
We have a network of key force level Neighbourhood Watch volunteer representatives, who work closely with the Associations, from whom we take guidance when determining whether a scheme is suitable to be displayed on the postcode search. If we are advised by the Representative that a coordinator is breaching the Ethics & Standards guidelines or that a scheme is not functioning as a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, NHWN will remove the scheme from the postcode search. We may also remove the coordinator from the database altogether, depending on the individual circumstances.
Q. Which areas of England and Wales are covered by a volunteer Neighbourhood Watch administrator who is able to verify schemes?
A. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Devon & Cornwall, Kent, Leicestershire, London, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Thames Valley, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.
Q. Which areas of England and Wales are covered by a police administrator who is able to verify schemes on behalf of the police?
A. Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Dorset, Durham, Hampshire, Humberside, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Thames Valley and Wiltshire.