This is why Horsham Neighbourhood Watch is a ‘lifeline’ to many

Think of Neighbourhood Watch and some might imagine curtain-twitching nosey neighbours.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

And the real-life role of Neighbourhood Watch in Horsham - as ‘a lifeline to many’ - was publicly demonstrated at the start of the pandemic.

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This year the organisation, which began in the UK in Cheshire in 1982, celebrates its 40th anniversary,

Neighbours in Old Millmeads, Horsham, at a get together last summer

But it first began even earlier - in New York in 1964 after a 28-year-old woman was stabbed across the street from where she lived.

Thirty eight witnesses saw the murder and it went on to motivate a community response.

Today, as Horsham District Neighbourhood Watch Association secretary Martin Bruton says: “The benefits of being part of your local community and knowing your neighbours, have never been realised more strongly than over the past two years during the Covid outbreak.

“Being part of a Neighbourhood Watch in your street or estate with its crime prevention and ‘nosey neighbour’ persona may not, at first, have entered people’s minds as a community resource to turn to.

Neighbourhood Watch is celebrating its 40th anniversary

“That changed during the pandemic, with the need to support or rely on one’s neighbours, when the structure and support of Neighbourhood Watch volunteers became a lifeline to so many.

“The terrible consequences of Covid became apparent early on, with the isolated and vulnerable often unable to obtain food and medical supplies or even delivery slots from the major supermarkets due to high demand.

“Those without the support of family, friends or immediate neighbours were at great risk and alone.

“That is when supporters and members of small local NHW groups quickly stepped forward to support other residents in their locality, whether members of NHW or not.”

Food was bought and delivered and medicines were collected from pharmacies.

“Local Neighbourhood Watch street co-ordinators were often contacted by worried relatives of elderly or vulnerable residents who were unable to visit their loved ones perhaps because of ill health themselves or because they were isolating,” said Martin.

“Again the NHW came to the fore to ensure no-one was overlooked or lacked support.

“At the same time as supporting each other, individual NHW groups have done their best to keep their local community spirits raised when Covid restrictions permitted.

“These included simply sitting outdoors, chatting to neighbours across front gardens, for example on ‘stay at home’ VE Day celebrations, during street charity coffee mornings and full blown outdoor street parties whilst raising much needed funds for charity such as St Catherine’s Hospice.”

But that’s not all. Neighbourhood Watch members continued to keep residents abreast of local crime and spread the message of how to stay safe on-line, how to avoid scams, and give advice on shed security, locking cars, safeguarding valuables - and most importantly to ‘Report it’ if it happens to police.

“With working from home, crime opportunities have changed considerably resulting in an explosion of fraud, along with areas more easily accessible becoming the prime targets, such as garages, cars, vans, sheds, which provide an easy source to steal tools, bikes, catalytic converters or simply loose change.”

Martin said that, in one recent incident, Neighbourhood Watch was alerted to the plight of two elderly residents who had become victims of ongoing bullying and vandalism.

The group immediately informed police and the youths involved were identified.

Their parents were informed and apologies given. the victims were reassured and the situation successfully concluded.

“This is just one example of many where communities are helping each other through NHW,” said Martin.

Anyone who wants to know more can find out at www.ourwatch.org.uk

“We hope our membership continues to increase in 2022, as we are here to support each other simply because ‘we care’,” said Martin.

Horsham District NHW can be contacted via email at [email protected]