Speaker – Laurie Blackall, President, Neighbourhood Watch ACT (NHW ACT)

What is Neighbourhood Watch?

  • It is a community led safety and crime prevention initiative.
  • NHW works in partnership with Crime Stoppers and ACT Policing.
  • ACT NHW is an incorporated not-for-profit company. The primary source of funding is a grant which is allocated through ACT Policing. It is the only NHW organisation to be staffed entirely by volunteers.
  • Neighbourhood Watch Australasia is the over-arching body that leads, facilitates and supports the State and Territory Neighbourhood Watch organisations in Australia and Neighbourhood Support (New Zealand) 
  • ACT NHW is managed by a Board of which Laurie is president.
  • There are 36 active NHW Areas across the ACT. Traditionally, Areas are based around a suburb, although there are now a few that operate across more than one suburb. NHW is also focusing on the increased prevalence of apartment complexes with their own unique safety and security issues and ‘on-line’ communities.
  • NHW ACT operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with ACT Policing that provides guidance on how the two organisations will cooperate and support each other.
  • NHW ACT works closely with both ACT Policing and Crime Stoppers to share information and look at ways to connect to communities.

What does Neighbourhood Watch do in a suburb?

  • NHW provides information to protect yourself and your property.
  • Many thefts are opportunistic and are people looking for money or car keys – vehicle theft is currently one of the most common crimes.
  • Residents in a suburb know what patterns and behaviours are normal.  As more residents connect with each other in a community, they get to know what is normal or a regular occurrence and more easily able to identify something or someone out of place.
  • NHW ACT encourages people to report illegal activity.  Information from reporting these activities assists the police in determining how to allocate their resources.

Why should you start a Neighbourhood Watch group?

  • There is evidence a NHW groups reduce crime in areas where:
  • The group is seen to be active
  • The community are seen to look after each other
  • The group has high visibility
  • The community is kept informed about crime prevention.
  • Neighbourhood Watch ACT receives police statistics that are more defined than those available to the general public - this information is passed onto the NHW group to enable the group to focus on areas of concern and for dissemination through their newsletter.
  • All NHW members receive a welcome pack including stickers for their rubbish bins and special UV pens for marking valuables for identification. UV pens will not deface your property as the marks are only visible under UV light.

How is a Neighbourhood Watch group formed?

  • Traditionally, running a NHW Area involves maintaining a committee, usually an Area Coordinator chairing a committee being formed, raising its own funds, with lead coordinator, treasurer and hosting general meetings
  • NHW ACT are moving towards a less formal model, noting that the prospect of running a committee and managing bank accounts is daunting to many. 
  • where the group does not have to be a formal committee, a small group of committed residents can become a new NHW Area.
  • The Throsby Residents Facebook page is an excellent way to seek residents that would be interested in forming this group.

Note: Membership is only available to people aged 18 years and over.

  • All residents that apply to join NHW must undergo a police check – this is at no cost to you.
  • One NHW member in the community is required to be nominated as the main contact, with a backup identified, so that relevant information, including crime statistics, can be passed to the area.  The same person would be the primary point of contact for community members.
  • An Area may also nominate a newsletter editor/ coordinator or other positions they feel would assist the NHW in their Area.  
  • An Area does have the option to collect donations or fees for advertising in their newsletters, however, they then need to have a formally appointed Treasurer and will be subject to additional accountability in regard to their financial activities.  They may seek funding support for NHW activities from the NHWACT Executive.  
  • Once a group is formed, it needs to be given formal approval from the NHW ACT board to operate.

Communication and a visible presence

  • Neighbourhood watch signage is highly recognisable and should be installed at least at the road entry points to Throsby.  NHWACT can facilitate the purchase and installation of signs once an Area is formally approved by the ACT NHW Board.
  • An important first step is for the group to create its first newsletter as well as finding a sponsor for its printing.  Plenty of support and guidance can be provided by NHW ACT.
  • Successful groups attract members and retain members passionate in communicating with the community. 
  • NHW groups often create their own Facebook page or group for members and interested residents.
  • The Forde community has a good example of getting the balance right between having a residents’ Facebook group alongside a NHW Facebook group
  • Using a separate Facebook group to the residents’ group can minimise the chance of vigilantism and leave space for more positive commentary on community life in the residents’ page.

How can NHW be effective for the long term?

  • People live on social media more than ever before, and people lose socialisation in person.
  • NHW encourages people to connect to people in your community, to feel connected and feel safer.
  • NHW groups can also be a conduit between ACT Policing and cultural communities that may be isolated from the rest of the suburb, or do not feel comfortable connecting with police.
  • The Neighbourhood Watch brand is instantly recognisable and communicates effectively what the group represents.

Suggested leadership roles

  • A main point of contact
  • Social media admins
  • One or more people to run pop-up events to attract new members

How to join Neighbourhood Watch

Visit https://www.nhwact.com.au/ and download a membership form. Membership is free.