News | NeighbourhoodWatch Watch scheme needsmembers

ACRIME-fighting charity could collapse if it fails to secure newblood,members havewarned. Maidstone and District Neigh-

bourhood Watch Association is operatingwith a “skeleton”man- agement committee and may have to take the drastic step of turning to Tonbridge for leader- ship if it is to survive. Committee member and Cox-

heath parish councillor, Cheryl Skinner, toldDownsMail: “There are so few of us now on the com- mittee, it’s becoming a real strug- gle. “We’ve been unable to encour-

agemore volunteers and if the sit- uation doesn’t change,


committee may have to close or be taken over by Tonbridge.” The committee provides a cru-

cial link between watch co-ordi- nators on the ground and police chiefs inMaidstone. It is central to

Howgroup is making safer communities

NEIGHBOURHOOD Watch has become amajor player in commu- nity crime-fighting. In Maidstone, it has also pro-

vided guidance to housing associ- ations and developers in a bid to build safety into neighbourhoods at the construction stage. And, say its representatives, it

has given support and social co- hesion to thousands of residents. Maidstone committee member

Cheryl Skinner said: “It’s not about twitching curtains and spy- ing on your neighbours. It’s about building better, safer communi- ties.” Chairman Jim Tynan added:

“Wewant families to growin com- munities they can be proud of, and wewant themto look out for each other -where no household needs to feel alone or vulnerable. “We not onlywork closelywith

existing watches, but we also en- courage and recruit newones, es- pecially in the ever-expanding and newly-developed areas of Maidstone. We provide all the support and training they re- quire.” In addition, theMaidstone asso-

ciation also fields considerable support from outside the town, citing the backing of parishes like WestMalling,Hunton, Coxheath, Boughton Malherbe, Boughton Monchelsea and Otterden.

30 Maidstone East March 2019

establishing newwatches, raising funds andmaterials, and promot- ing the charity’s crucialwork. The association describes its committee as being made up of

“dedicated volunteers all living within the Maidstone area who are passionate about helping to build safer communities within Maidstone and its surrounding villages”. Association chairman Jim

Tynan (pictured left) said that, al- though a merger with Tonbridge had been mooted, he is hopeful Maidstonewill survive. “There are no issues at the coal

face,” he said. “The scheme is very popular.My area –Allington – has about 30 co-ordinators. In some of the more rural areas of the borough theremight be five or six. The average is 10 to 12. “Anewwatch is currently being

launched in Sutton Valence, there are another two in the pipeline and I have a further half dozen at

the enquiry stage. “Our difficulty is finding new

committee members. A few stepped down last year due to work or other commitments, and finding replacements has become a challenge. In addition, our vol- untary watch liaison officer has left and we’re waiting for the po- lice to appoint a newone.” Launched in 1982, Neighbour-

hood Watch is now the largest crime prevention movement in England and Wales, with 2.3mil- lionmember households. Mrs Skinner said: “There has

never been a greater need for the Neighbourhood Watch. The po- lice have been put under consid- erable pressure over the years, and they rely on public support to tackle crime.”

Extra police for antisocial behaviour

THE question over Neighbourhood Watch’s future came as anti-social behaviour rocked Maidstone and mid-Kent. In Marden, the parish council

called for a meeting with Network Rail and British Transport Police to discuss issues at the railway station. This follows similar summitswithed- ucation and youth services, police, Maidstone Borough Council and housing associations aimed at reigning in troublemakers. Coxheath listed five cases of anti-

social behaviour,10of violence, four public order offences and two of criminal damage in just amonth. Headcorn Parish Council said the

village’s cricket and tennis club had held a meeting with police after members feared they were being targeted by a gang of youths. And Larkfield was due to have a

publicmeeting asDownsMailwent to press, to discuss concerns over yob activity inMartin Square.

Maidstone and the Weald MP

HelenGrant ispicturedwithKent Po- lice and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott when they met at the end of January to discuss polic- ing around Brenchley Gardens in Maidstone. Shewas concerned by the level of

drug-taking and intimidating be- haviour, and called on the crime chief to push for extra police there. Mr Scott promised to raise the

issue with Kent Police, adding: “There are about 270 more police officers in the county compared with when I took office in 2016. However,with the extra demand of- ficers are facing,we needmore. “I amproposing using an increase

in council tax to fund the recruit- ment of another 180 fully-war- ranted police officers this year, meaning there will be 450 more in Kent thanwhen Iwas elected.”

Could you help to fight crime?

MAIDSTONE and District Neighbourhood Watch Associa- tion is down to five regular com- mitteemembers and calculates it needs a further five or six to get back to strength. Chairman Jim Tynan told

Downs Mail: “We’re currently short of a treasurer, someone to manage ourwebsite, two or three

publicity people to attend public events with the police or com- munity support officers, and a programme coordinator, who would decidewhich eventswe’d need to cover - school visits, group meetings, village fetes… that sort of thing. “Theposts are all voluntary and we’d ask people to put in what-

ever hours they can. Committee membersdon’tneedanyprevious watch experience although, like many charity volunteers, theywill be required to undergo criminal records checks.” Anyone interested in joining

the committee should email Mr Tynan atNHWcoordinator@talk-

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