Police national statistics for NZ last year showed a sharp increase in burglaries and thefts and Waikanae hasn’t been immune. We have had items stolen from us over the last decade, as has our closest neighbour, more than once, and there is a clear need to combat this problem.
In America you see posters in all major transport hubs and on trains that say, “If You See Something Say Something”. Although this is first and foremost a reference to terrorism, it applies to other crime, too.
The fact is that elements of nearly all crimes are witnessed by someone and citizens working together can not only help apprehend criminals but help prevent crimes.
Although opportunist theft — (smash), grab and run — is more likely in daylight hours, house/car break-in and enter burglars prefer the cloak of darkness. Motion sensor outside lights are an obvious way to deprive them of the darkness.
If you are not present to witness yourself, inexpensive security camera(s) can record the scene; see earlier posts.
The Waikanae Community Board should be taking a lead in this matter, but has yet to show interest and we doubt its present members are going to; however, you can foster Neighbourhood Watch yourself.
Here are some principles:
- Recruit and organise as many neighbours as possible
The first step is talking to those who live nearby about starting a group.
- Contact the police and schedule a meeting
Invite them to meet with your group at a time and place convenient for your group. It is essential for your group to work in collaboration with law enforcement because Neighbourhood Watch is a cooperative effort.
- Discuss community concerns and develop an action plan
If law enforcement is unavailable to come to the first meeting you might want to have a meeting to discuss the concerns and issues in the neighbourhood. Your group should create a plan on how to work towards lessening the impact of the top 3 concerns of neighbours.
- Create a communication plan
It is important to decide what type of communication will work for your watch group — social media is the most immediate and the Neighborly website is good, but periodic meetings will also be useful. The American publication on Advances in Technology Take Watch Groups to the Next Level is a guide to what resources are out there.
- A neighbourhood patroller is vigilant, but is not a vigilante; you gather information, particularly in recorded audio-visual form, but avoid conflict.
- You are not the Police -– if you inject yourself into a situation, you risk injury from the criminal(s) who may have weapons.
- If a situation develops, you try to de-escalate it and quit to a safe distance. Only if you are prevented from leaving are you entitled to use force to defend yourself.
- If you have to use force to subdue/apprehend someone, you are expected to use the minimum force necessary.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s website on neighborhood watch is here.