A ‘young’ Watch in Streetly
This community oriented group has found numerous innovative ways to engage the young and has been recognised as a ‘best practice tool for the community’ by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Key Learning Points
- It is important for Neighbourhood Watch to be seen to be making a difference by trying out new ways of engaging with the community.
- It is important to give the local community a ‘voice’, especially young people.
- Neighbourhood Watch needs to be championed, with commitment shown by all group members and volunteers.
The Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) group operates in Streetly, Walsall, providing advice about crime and safety to more than 5,000 houses. Streetly is a well established community with partner agencies involved in addressing the concerns of the area, especially anti-social behaviour. The group was established in 1989, driven by a local resident, in partnership with local Councillors, the NHS, Youth Services and the police as well as Friends of the Park (Blackwood Park). The Forum adopts a collaborative approach, and has been specifically adopted to tackle anti-social behaviour issues on one particular road. Young people were first engaged when they were invited to take part in a barbeque. Once the group is fully established, young people will have responsibility over the day-to-day management of the Forum.
The first barbeque event in Streetly was a huge success as it attracted 70 young people and gave them a unique opportunity to interact with local residents, the police, NHS representatives and youth services, thereby breaking down barriers between young people and local agencies and demonstrating the breadth of issues that NHW can address. Involving young people is also helping to encourage greater community cohesion and understanding between different generations.
Streetly Community and Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) group has been the key link for the development of the Streetly Youth4em. The Chair of the NHW group has used long-established working relationships with West Midlands Police to set up this scheme. The broader West Midlands Youth4em as a whole is split into smaller neighbourhood groups and Streetly is the newest group to have been formed as part of this. Streetly NHW group members are encouraged to promote the Streetly Youth4em to their own children, helping to raise the profile of the forum and increase membership by spreading the word across families and amongst young people in the Streetly area. As the NHW group is already very active and successful in the area, it is proving to be a good anchoring point for the Streetly Youth4em.
Streetly Youth4em also has a fully established constitution and has adopted a Child Protection Policy and a Disability Policy. The website is used by young people to add suggestions for improvements to the police and Neighbourhood Watch services. The forum operates on a community-based network of young people, who are called upon (through parental consent) for their involvement in activities.
Streetly Youth4em organised the first barbeque in May 2009 and has arranged a further six since. These events have linked with healthy eating, taught young people about health and safety, how to keep the environment clean and proved to be a useful way of integrating people from different parts of the community. A promotional DVD about the work of the forum has been produced, showcasing the activities of the group. A grant of Â£200 was received for the production of a short film based on knife crime. Members have also been working to remove graffiti and clear litter, in order to improve their local environment. Young people were taken to Woodlands Camp where they took part in different physical activities, challenging personal boundaries and building confidence. Members of Streetly Youth4em are hoping to arrange a ‘Streetly’s Got Talent’ event and are working on plans for the local Pavilion to be refurbished into a gym.
A multi-agency approach is widely practiced. For example, local partners were closely involved during the first barbeque, and the local Cooperative grocery store manager deployed staff members to assist at the event. Streetly Youth4em also received funding from the Children Area Partnership and the Safer Walsall Partnership (Â£500 from each).
Partner agencies have also benefitted a great deal from their involvement. For example, levels of engagement between the police and young people have built confidence in the police, as well as assisting the personal development of Police Officers in helping them to work better with the community. The forum has also helped the local youth services to meet their targets and has resulted in an increase in attendance at a local youth club.
The Youth4em is emerging as a key contributor to success in improving feelings of safety amongst residents and in encouraging community cohesion. The barbeques have helped break down intergenerational barriers and challenge stereotypes linked to NHW. The forum provides young people with a ‘focus’, deterring them from engaging in anti-social behaviour, which is also helping to change community attitudes towards young people. During the visit to Woodlands Camp young Muslims had the opportunity to interact with other young people, which also helped to create greater cultural awareness. Overall, incidents of anti-social behaviour have dramatically reduced and calls received from the public have also reduced by 50%.
Young people have been encouraged to join the Prince’s Trust, which resulted in one member of the group receiving a Young People’s Award. The forum is therefore setting the foundation for longer term goals and has been recognised by the Association of Chief Police Officers as a ‘best practice tool for the community’. It is hoped that it will be used as a model across the West Midlands region. By allowing young people to work in partnership with the police and the local authority, Streetly Youth4em is demonstrating a unique method of partnership working that addresses issues deep set within certain communities.