Letter: Good neighbours can help to catch criminals

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The Independent Online
Sir: Roger Graef ('Would you shop the neighbours?', 7 December) was rather muddled and misleading in a number of respects. As someone who has property in London which has been burgled, and as a member of a police consultative committee in Kent, may I put him right on a few points?

He says that there is no strategy for crime prevention. I'm not sure what he means by 'strategy', but the Government has been very successful in putting crime prevention on the map, with a network of neighbourhood watch schemes all over the country, the major Crime Concern campaign (with excellent leaflets giving advice on how to protect our homes, cars, etc), a significant shift of emphasis in police activity towards prevention (with specific officers allocated to that task), with good interagency co-operation (eg Department of Environment advice on how to 'design out' crime in housing estates), and so on.

He seems to suggest that tipping off the police cannot help. I know that this is nonsense. A couple of years ago my London neighbours, walking back home, noticed some youths behaving suspiciously. When they noticed the youths had disappeared from our front path, they rang the police, who responded promptly and arrested the criminals inside our house.

This episode brings home the importance of regarding crime prevention as not just a matter for the police. We cannot simply wash our hands and leave them to do our dirty work for us. We need 'active citizens' as witnesses, or to pass on information or simply keep a quiet eye on things.

Building on effective neighbourhood watch schemes, as suggested by Michael Howard, strikes me as a sensible and effective way forward. It is not, incidentally, a 'sudden policy shift', as Mr Graef suggests. Down the road from here, in Sandwich, their neighbourhood watch scheme already includes street patrols.

I would also criticise Mr Graef's thesis on grounds of logic. He suggests that not enough crimes are cleared up. Surely part of the solution is to help the police catch criminals rather than rubbish sensible initiatives.

Yours faithfully,


Birchington, Kent

8 December