Villagers keep eye out for troublemakers

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE in a Leicestershire village have become volunteer wardens to combat crime. If you break the law in Glenfield, 120 eyes will be watching.

Set up in February, the 60 Glenfield Observers are a 'proactive form of Neighbourhood Watch'. Volunteers are trained to log anything they consider suspicious while out walking the dog, jogging or going to the shops.

Barry Shaw, a local councillor, is one of the most enthusiastic members. He patrols by car, and keeps an unwavering eye open from his sitting room. 'I take my notebook out with me in the car, even if I'm just popping down to the Co-op. I'm always prepared. It's important that everyone does their best,' he said.

Glenfield parish council originally considered the Home Secretary's notion of a parish warden - a community volunteer employed to keep watch. Last year, 20 pilot schemes were set up nation-wide. But Glenfield wanted something with more active police involvement and evolved its own scheme, organised by police and council and co-ordinated by a special constable.

The Glenfield Observers - they chose the name - say they are no different from parish wardens otherwise. They do not wear uniform, and cannot make arrests. Their role is to be the eyes and ears of the police. 'We have no special criteria for Observers,' said Nigel Carter, the special constable who co-ordinates the group. 'Often they are people who want to be specials. The age range is mid-thirties to seventies, although the majority are in their fifties and sixties. We manage to cover just about the whole 24 hours - one man walks his dog at 4am and it goes on until 10 or 11 at night.'

The Observers patrol armed only with an ID badge, notebook and torch. If police are needed immediately they dial 999. For less urgent cases they call the nearest police station, and if it is really low-key they make a note and raise the matter at a monthly meeting.

The organisers are keen to avoid face- to-face confrontation. 'The last thing we want is people going out with rottweilers,' said David Rooze, chairman of the council. 'If a confrontational situation arises they should just say they are walking their dog - which is what they are doing.' he said. 'What they should do is go round the corner to write down details.'

Stan Dickinson, one of the volunteers, walks his alsatian three times a day and goes out at about 8.30pm. 'I wasn't told exactly what to look for - it's just common sense really if you see something out of the ordinary,' he said. 'I'm sure one of the benefits is that older people feel that at last someone is keeping an eye out for them and they feel more secure.'

Mr Shaw, who foiled an attempted break-in by three youths after observing them through his garage window, thinks the innocent have nothing to fear from the scheme and rejects any suggestion he is snooping: 'It's a case of looking after someone else's property,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)