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Devon and Cornwall Community Watch Association connects with almost 300 new communities during pandemic

Devon and Cornwall Community Watch Association (DaCCWA) has connected with almost 300 new communities since the beginning of Covid-19 as residents look to support each other during lockdown.

Its latest initiative, Good Neighbour Groups, launched through the existing Neighbourhood Alert scheme, was set up at the beginning of the pandemic and asked people to think about how they could support the vulnerable and isolated residents in their communities. Almost 300 groups and individuals responded to the call.

The Alert also provided many individuals with a lifeline for help, enabling DaCCWA to introduce them to their local Neighbourhood Watch Schemes or pass their enquiry urgently to local authorities or particular agencies.

Jules Fairman, strategic co-ordinator of DaCCWA, said: “Over the past three months many people have responded to our call and we’ve been busy providing them with lots of information and guidance. We’ve also received many direct calls from people for help and we’ve been working with both Volunteer Cornwall and various councils in Devon to ensure these requests have been swiftly actioned.

“The aim of DaCCWA is to inspire people to come together to create strong, friendly, active communities where crime and anti-social behaviour is less likely to happen. Through our network of area Watch Offices, we’ve been able to ensure our existing Community Watches have been active in not only crime prevention but supporting each other during these challenging times.

“The pandemic has equally given us the opportunity to really re-energise people about the benefits of being part of a Community Watch and it has been heartening to see examples where support has been given that has gone beyond crime prevention. Our volunteers have shared extensive local knowledge and experience to ensure more people feel safe from crime during lockdown especially if they are vulnerable or feel isolated in the place they live.”

Jules, who was appointed to her role at the end of last year is on a mission to work with DaCCWA’s volunteers to evolve the concept of Community Watches and she is keen to take the opportunity to move beyond their historical portrayal. She said: “The curtain twitching image is so out of date and does not reflect what Community Watches can really offer now.

“More schemes are now focussing their efforts on other types of community assistance projects and events which allow people to engage with each other and form friendships and support networks. This ultimately empowers people to feel they can equally report crime and anti-social behaviour and and in so doing, reduce crime and the fear of crime.”

DaCCWA is the recognised umbrella organisation for watch schemes in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner funds the DaCCWA strategic co-ordinator role as part ofthe ongoing delivery of the Police and Crime Plan.

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: “We are always striving to be a safer, more resilient and better-connected community across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Living on a peninsula, surrounded by sea and with five inhabited islands we are the best at stepping up and taking our share of responsibility for each other. The fact that so many individuals and communities are involved, including in my own street, to support some of us who needed help during this crisis is inspiring.

“If there’s one good thing that’s come out of this difficult time it’s a reminder of just how kind and considerate, we all are, and can be. This has shown great leadership within Neighbourhood Watch from Chairman to Member responding quickly and being by our community’s side when we needed it.”

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Case study: Keyham

Keyham in Plymouth has a very active Neighbourhood Watch which is focused on bringing the community together and closer.

The team covers everything fromodd jobs for the elderly, community events such as the Great get Together and Easter Egg Hunt, regular litter picks and allotment tidies as well as an active crime and anti social behaviour reporting system. It also has a thriving Facebook group giving everyone the chance to get involved and have their say.

During the pandemic, they have risen to the challenge of supporting those affected and vulnerable from Covid-19. Examples include delivering tonnes of food to people in need in the area, securing free sanitary ware and incontinence supplies, distributing free fire and personal alarms  and maintaining regular contact with those unable to venture out. It estimates that since March the Watch scheme has completed over 737 tasks for the neighbourhood.

The operational set up of its COVID-19 support group was sorted out in three days,with a dedicated phone line set up and social media channels launched. A leaflet was also produced and put through every door in Keyham offering help to over 6000 Keyham residents.Door chain locks were purchased and fitted for the vulnerable who had requested extra security for their home and over 200 personal alarms issued,  and a brief on fraud awareness delivered highlighting resent Covid scams to an elderly community to improve both their knowledge and awareness. More than 15 knives were equally taken off the street as part of a knife amnesty. As cases of domestic violence increased in the area, those affected were also supported with personal alarms and security for their homes along with food and other help.