Helping Watches in South Yorkshire
Overseeing roughly 3,500 coordinators, the Association is experimenting with an innovative website and database, runs translation services to engage non-English speakers and is looking at ways to involve young people.
The South Yorkshire Neighbourhood Watch Association (SYNWA) was established in 1998 as a coordinating body for Neighbourhood and Home Watch (NHW) groups across South Yorkshire. It seeks to engender good citizenship and greater public participation in the prevention and reduction of crime and the fear of crime in partnership with the police and local authorities.
SYNWA comprises a Chair and 10 Directors, drawn from across South Yorkshire. They oversee the activities of about 3,500 NHW coordinators who in turn cover about 100,000 households. There is an ongoing process to align coordinators with Safer Neighbourhood Teams and to link in consistently with Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
Using New Technology
Autumn 2009 saw the launch of a website (http://www.synwa.com/) believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. At its most basic level, it provides information about NHW activities and which can be translated into various languages using the Google translate tool. However, on a much more sophisticated level it provides opportunities for residents to register and become part of a NHW group and, uniquely, plot information onto a map. Once approved by a coordinator, this is then shared with other group members, for information and to enable patterns to be identified and, if necessary, acted upon by the police. The nominated officer at South Yorkshire Police is sent an e-mail every time a report is made, so nothing is missed and feedback is provided to all of those submitting reports. This system can be used both to reassure coordinators (e.g. young people walking through a village at night could be part of a legitimate organised group) or to provide supplementary evidence were a crime to be committed. It is also a means of e-mailing/texting all who have registered. In addition, access to the basic service can be gained via digital television, with access to mapping scheduled for August 2010.
Engaging New Communities
A translation service in the Doncaster area seeks to engage communities for whom English is not their first language, beginning with Doncaster’s Polish community. Although NHW has taken the initiative, the problem is common to all public services, not just the police. This will run as a pilot scheme from March 2009, with a budget of Â£10,000. It will take the form of an interpretation hotline, providing information on all public services 24/7, but is not to be used for reporting/seeking urgent assistance. Three-quarters of the budget has been spent on establishing the telecommunications facilities, with the balance spent on promoting the service.
Recording Good Practice
SYNWA has recently established a database of activities undertaken by each NHW group. Although this is more a matter of record than a tool for disseminating ideas/good practice, it could be used to search for groups that have carried out particular activities, secured different types of funding etc.
Clearly, it is too early to say what the impacts have been, but it is hoped that, in respect of the first initiative, Doncaster’s relatively new Polish community will feel socially included and, in respect of the second initiative, that younger people in particular will be encouraged to become involved in NHW activities to a greater extent than has been the case hitherto.