James Brokenshire, the minister for crime prevention, visited Wandsworth today as part of Neighbourhood Watch week to see one of our training sessions in action.
I like to think that Wandsworth was ‘doing’ Big Society long before it became a part of Conservative and government policy. Our commitment to Neighbourhood Watch has been more than just putting up signs; we offer support to get them started, ongoing help and advice once running, central and localised messaging services to keep everyone informed and training sessions to help prepare co-ordinators so they can help in the event of an emergency (from floods and ‘flu, through to terrorism) and are better equipped to look out for and after their neighbours.
And at the risk of being boastful I believe the small team of dedicated staff in in the council’s community safety unit, with the help of partners in the police and fire brigade, and, of course, all the people who are Watch members in Wandsworth have created the best Neighbourhood Watch system in the country.
It has played a key part in making Wandsworth the safest borough in inner London, but that doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels. Strengthening and expanding Neighbourhood Watch was a key part of the local Conservative manifesto.
The challenge we have now set ourselves is to expand coverage so those who have not traditionally been part of watch schemes, council and social housing, transient populations and large private developments, are covered – while maintaining the high quality of support and training we offer – to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to play a role in making inner London’s safest borough safer still.