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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Watching out for the neighbours
Women police
Police work with volunteers to prevent crime
It is 20 years since the UK's first Neighbourhood Watch scheme was established.

Now there are more 155,000 schemes covering 10 million homes across the UK.

Neighbourhood Watch is a partnership between police and local communities who want to prevent crime.

The first scheme was set up in Mollington, Cheshire in 1982.

National Neighbourhood Watch Association
The Association acts as an information network

Malcolm Hughes, who is now the community liaison officer for the area, said the quiet Cheshire village set up the scheme after a series of burglaries.

"Some people had been out to the United States and seen a scheme that was American-based," he said.

"What they did do was get a group of neighbours who could be the eyes and ears of the community.

"From there it has grown into the largest network of volunteers in the UK."

Fear of crime

He said 20 years on, Mollington's Neighbourhood Watch participants were still concerned about the same sort of crime - property theft and car crime.

But he said many communities across the UK faced other problems.

"The fear of crime is an element," he said.

"People see a story about a senior citizen who has been mugged and the public perception on crime is not the reality."

'Community spirit'

He said people should not be afraid to go outside their homes and that schemes like Neighbourhood Watch contributed to people's safety.

The movement, which has representative police officers in most areas, now includes a range of schemes - covering farms, businesses, shops and even canals.

Colleen Atkins, the honorary vice president of the National Neighbourhood Watch Association, said the movement had expanded hugely in its 20 years.

"It has retained the value of community spirit, neighbourliness and crime prevention, which, along with the hard work of volunteers, are still the core to its success," she said.

See also:

25 Jun 02 | England
15 Jan 01 | UK
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