Over 80 enthusiastic Neighbourhood Watch volunteers met at the pre-launch of a new Force Association that will cover the West Midlands.

A force association represents Neighborhood Watch schemes within a police force boundary. They are the voice between the people and the police.

Speaking at the meeting Police Commander Kenny Bell welcomed the new initiative saying that as crime had evolved, so too policing needed to change. He revealed that in the West Midlands they were having to adapt to 2,000 fewer police officers on the beat in the region.

Inspector Bel Six-Smith, who manages community policing, said she was enthused about restarting the Force Association saying that in the past the police had not engaged fully with Neighbourhood Watch but now that would change.

As part of her presentation, Six-Smith showed two maps detailing where crimes had been committed in two different parts of Birmingham that had the same demographics, area spread and socio-economic population.

One map was crowded with crime reports whereas the other had minimal reports of any criminal activity whatsoever. The only difference between the two areas was the latter had a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in place. This was proof Neighbourhood Watch worked, attendees heard.

Later in the evening volunteers were asked to nominate themselves for places on the force association committee with an emphasis on ‘diverse skill-sets’ to ensure that the committee was able to focus on ‘doing, not talking’.

Craig Cox, force association lead for the neighboring West Mercia area, spoke of his experiences of starting an association. He said it needed to be more than a talking shop; it required people taking action.

John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Network, delivered a presentation on the organisation’s three-year strategy to ensure it was more relevant to its members and growing the number of schemes throughout England and Wales.