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News Watch ‘needs more volunteers’

MAIDSTONE and District NeighbourhoodWatch Association could be disbanded if more volun- teers do not come forward.

The scheme, which has been run-

ning since the 1980s, provides crime and safety awareness and ad- vice throughout the borough. There are currently 485 coordina-

tors who disseminate information to 14,000 households – yet the group’s committee is consistently unable to make decisions on strat- egy because of too few members. Due to departures in late 2014 the committee has spent the past year with a total five members, the min- imum needed for meetings to be quorate. Despite the best efforts of chairman Jim Wilson, no one has come forward to sit on the commit- tee.

He said:“We can’t be sure that all

five members will turn up for meet- ings; when they don’t, we cannot make decisions, which causes prob- lems with the police becausewe are not being represented properly. “We are like a ship without a rudder. You need numbers to have

proper dialogue, discussions and to agree on strategy.” Jim (pictured) says the organisa-

tion will grind to a halt in its cur- rent form because there is not enough man- power


monitor coor- dinators’ de- tails or for the authority to target areas, many urban, not yet cov- ered


Neighbour- hoodWatch. He needs at

least six people: treasurer, secre- tary, database manager, products manager (dealing with purchasing and selling), website manager and anyone else prepared to give up two hours for meetings on the last Wednesday of every month. Should the group be forced to

close, it would be likely to amalga- mate with West Kent Neighbour- hood Watch and thus lose its independence. Jim said: “By keep- ing it local we know the area, where the problems are and what needs more attention. “We are trawling the same pool

for the same fish; the same person who volunteers joins a lot of the same organisations. Unfortunately they are getting old and less mo- bile.We are not getting young peo- ple interested. Society has changed and people’s time is much more limited.”

Neighbourhood Watch is strug-

gling to become established in some urban areas in Maidstone. Jim added: “In the past we used to have residents’ associations, butwe have very few of them now. “Neighbourhood Watch brings

the community together; neigh- bours get to know each other as well as problems such as burglaries

and anti-social behaviour at regu- lar meetings. “The coordinator receives crime messages covering a particular area from police on a regular basis. It brings people together and rein- forces the need to help vulnerable people. “In many places you have elderly people living by themselves, and if they know there is a system where people will look in and help them it will give peace of mind – espe- cially as there are more and more frauds and scams taking place at the moment.” Sgt Phillip Hibbern, deputy com- mander for West Kent Police, told the Neighbourhood Watch AGM that coordinators are eyes and ears of the community, providing vital communication, community reas- surance and support. Anyone who would like to join

the committee should call Jim on 01622 693346.

Online crime ‘needs new approach’ Annual award

POLICE inWest Kent are evolving their approach todeal with increases in online fraud, phone scams and rogue traders. Sgt Phillip Hibbern, deputy com- mander for West Kent Police, told the Maidstone and District Neigh- bourhood Watch annual meeting: “We have traditionally dealt with crimes such as burglaries but the newchallenge is the online criminal. “For many generations we have focused on the same crime types but nowwe are having to look at evolv- ing crime types. “We need to identify vulnerable victims and work with trading stan- dards.We need to get the message out to families and the elderly who

may have been victims of phone scams “Everyone has to take responsibil-

ity for protecting vulnerable people. “Please continue with what you

are doing as an association and evolve aswe are trying to evolve.” Mr Hibbern said there were four

main areas in which crimewas caus- ing a concern in Maidstone: Seasonal burglaries From Octo- ber to the New Year burglaries are higher than the rest of the year. Several arrests have taken place as part of Operation Castle. Theft of tools from vans “This has been going on for a while now. It is about protecting tradespeople’s livelihoods; they might go out of

GPs plan to work ‘smarter’

DOCTORS concerned about growing pressure on GP practices in Maidstone, Malling and theWeald are forming a federation. The aim is for GPs to “work smarter, not harder”, and not risk “burning out” as they care for the health of others. This will help practices employ staff between them, increase serv-

ices on offer and allow them to share expertise and working loads. Initially, GP practices will provide better training for doctors,

nurses and other staff, strengthen cover arrangements by running a local locum bank and save NHS money by joining forces to buy es- sentials. The aim is to increase scope, perhaps by filling in for GPs who are

sick or unavailable, or enablingpatients to seeGPswith a special skill in some areas of work. Federationsmayeventually include staff beyond those working for individual practices, so patients benefit from integrated teams of health visitors, district nurses and mental health specialists working closely with a group of practices. GPs foresee workload increasing for various reasons, but the num-

ber of doctors could fall due to retirements and difficulties in urgent recruitment.

business if their goods are stolen and some struggle to get insurance because of the risks.” Theft of cars Therewas a partic- ular spike in thefts of Land Rover Defender vehicles due to them no longer being in production. Stolen vehicles are sold off in Britain and abroad. Theft of mobile phones The new Iphone 6 is a particular target. Those who are out socialisingwere warned to be vigilant. Sgt Hibbert also announced that

the borough of Ashford would join the West Kent Division in 2016. “I get more staff and more responsi- bility to deal with criminality,” he said.

A BARMING woman who pro- duced her own guidance docu- ment for local Neighbourhood Watch coordinators has won an annual award. Heather Coppock, of South

Street, was named Neighbour- hood Watch Co- ordinator of the Year. The free- lance manage- ment trainer created a book- let to help coor- dinators in their

duties and encourage them to net- work. She hopes to attract funding to run training sessions using the principles of the document.

Castle is triathlon winner

LEEDS Castle has been selected to be part of Triathlon England’s Na- tional Championships for 2016. The castle, which hosted its own

events in 2014 and 2015, has been included on the 2016 British Triathlon Age-Group Major Events Calendar, providing an opportu- nity for Britain’s top age groupers to prepare for the Olympics and Paralympics. Leeds Castle's sprint distance on

June 25 will form part of Triathlon England's National Champi- onships. The 750-metre swim will take

place in the castle moat, with swim- mers passing under the castle through the two ancient arches. Once out of the water, there is a

short run to the bike racks and, after a quick change, competitors head out onto Kent’s roads for a 26 kmcycle on theA20 to Charing and back. The final leg involves a 5K run along the upper parkland. The castle’s own Junior Aquathlon takes place on the same day, with participants expected to complete a 50m swim and 600m run.

On the Sunday, there will be the

Leeds Castle Sprint Triathlon and the Leeds Castle Standard Distance Triathlon. The sprint involves another 750m

swim, 26K cycle and 5K run, while the standard distance event is a gruelling 1500m swim, 40K cycle ride and 10K run.

Maidstone Town Xmas 2015 13

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