Negative stereotypes of Neighbourhood Watch members as nosy curtain twitches are offensive, unproductive and responsible for putting people off joining the crime prevention movement, its leader said today (4 Feb).

The CEO of the Neighbourhood Watch Network, John Hayward-Cripps, argues that members are often portrayed as busy-bodies rather then citizens trying to make a positive impact upon their communities.

The body, which oversees Neighbourhood Watch schemes across England and Wales, points to recent media coverage where it says its members are unfairly maligned.

The ITV Sunday night crime drama Vera featured a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator who interfered with police investigations and is seen at one point following suspects involved in a murder.

A Guardian column by comic David Mitchell inferred that putting Neighbourhood Watch members in charge of law enforcement would result in crimes such as speeding and burglary being prioritised over online child abuse and modern slavery.

John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of the Neighbourhood Watch Network, said: “Neighbourhood Watch volunteers are often characterized as a group of middle-class keyhole Kate’s – spying on the neighbours, interfering in people’s lives. This lazy stereotyping is harmful and does not reflect the real work of the modern Neighbourhood Watch.

“The idea that our members are only concerned with certain types of crime is baffling. Our volunteers run workshops to stop young people carrying knifes, we teach older people to spots the signs of potential scams and we have produced crime prevention toolkits that tackle human trafficking and terrorism.

“The majority of police officers embrace the local knowledge and insight that our volunteers bring with them. We are viewed as vital partners in the effort to create safer and stronger communities. Neighbourhood Watch is a grassroots movement open to anyone who wants to make their community a safer place. We would urge people to think twice before making assumptions about us.”