Neighbourhood Watch has, in the past, had a reputation among some as a crime prevention movement delivered by a certain demographic of the community. Now a new programme seeks to understand how Neighbourhood Watch can involve people from all communities to be safer and more active in crime prevention and reducing social isolation.

The Acceleration Programme is working in collaboration with Police forces in five areas to bring people together who traditionally have not seen the value in setting up a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme. It is part of the Neighbourhood Watch Network’s plan to deliver on its three-year strategy to diversify and extend its offer to communities across England and Wales.

The network wants to shine a light on good practice happening in Neighbourhood Watch schemes across the land. The Spotlight series will begin with the Acceleration Programme focusing on one area at a time.

Each of the areas has a different focus. In Wallsend, Northumbria, the target is to launch a scheme in a town where lives are blighted by high crime rates. The kind of environment where an effective Neighbourhood Watch scheme could have the biggest impact on people’s quality of life.
A community in Mexborough, Doncaster, has a similar issue with persistent organised crime. Here, 21 community and voluntary groups are starting to join together to run a Neighbourhood Watch scheme to tackle the problem.

In the West Midlands, the programme will establish what good practice looks like when engaging with different communities. What are the barriers to engaging people in these areas? How do you create links with under-represented communities?

Students are severely under-represented within our movement. So two Acceleration Programmes, in Leeds and Greater Manchester, cities which have between them over 170,000 students, are investigating how best to engage them. What are the challenges to setting up a student scheme and how do we overcome them? The use of new technology in place of physical meetings and committee structures will also be explored.

Robin Newman, Head of Membership and Community Engagement at the Neighbourhood Watch Network, says the Acceleration Programme is already making the charity more relevant as well as paving the way for a greater take up of schemes.

“The programmes that are running in these five areas are setting a standard of what good practice can look like”, he said. “We know that Neighbourhood Watch schemes have so much to offer to communities in helping to reduce social isolation and keep people feeling safer and more connected in their neighbourhoods.

“Being able to shine a light and celebrate the activity of Neighbourhood Watch volunteers will encourage others to get involved and understand more about what is taking place in this engaging, involving and diverse movement.

“The information we gather from these programmes will inform our volunteers greatly as we continue to expand our offer to the rest of England and Wales”.