Not on Stratty's watch?

The award-winning Stratford and District Neighbourhood Watch needs members, otherwise the volunteer group is likely to go into recess. Pictured are Leading Senior Constable Richard Crisp with Stratford Neighbourhood Watch founding member Maureen Paliew.
The award-winning Stratford and District Neighbourhood Watch needs members, otherwise the volunteer group is likely to go into recess. Pictured are Leading Senior Constable Richard Crisp with Stratford Neighbourhood Watch founding member Maureen Paliew.

STRATFORD and District Neighbourhood Watch has a proud 28-year tradition of making the town's streets just that little bit safer.

The watch has been the eyes and ears on the ground for local police, and is one of three Neighbourhood Watches still operating in the Wellington Shire.

The watch's reputation as an integral community group precedes it - snagging an award from Stratford Lions Club at last year's Australia Day awards.

The dedicated group can be seen at most community events around town, handing out brochures to educate the community on how to stay safe.

Some of the initiatives it has been responsible for include fitting anti-theft screws to number plates, and engraving items like bikes and scooters with identification codes, so police can return the goods swiftly should they ever be stolen.

The watch's run may be coming to an end, however, as if no community support is forthcoming at its annual meeting next Tuesday, it is likely the group will go into recess.

Founding member Maureen Paliew said when the watch began in 1991, more than 70 people attended the first meeting. Now, a core group of seven devoted members was all that remained.

"We try to sell what Neighbourhood Watch actually is - we do publicity, we go to the schools, we support bigger meetings that are held in Sale," she said.

Stratford's only policeman Leading Senior Constable Richard Crisp's area stretches from Meerlieu to Stockdale, so he appreciates the help the watch members are able to provide.

"The fact that the community is doing really well crime-wise, we can attribute to Neighbourhood Watch and their contribution," he said.

"It helps having a good community with good people in it, but to have people who are actively out there trying to prevent crime has been really good.

"It's a two-way street - I need to provide the community with information to make them feel safe and to help them help themselves, but also I need people to give me information to help me identify crime trends.

"It's usually people from outside town who come through the area for whatever reason - whether they know somebody here or they're just from a neighbouring town - and they come through here and we get a little bit of a crime trend, so we might get a few burglaries in a regional area, or a few thefts in town.

"We're pretty quickly on top of that, we work closely with CI [Criminal Investigation Unit] in Sale ... but there's nothing ongoing around here, so we're pretty fortunate.

"We can attribute that to the community being very proactive and getting on board, and letting me know when there's an issue, so we can deal with it quickly."

Leading Senior Constable Crisp said it was difficult to get people involved in community groups like the watch, particularly in the age where people were more interested in computers and devices.

"The younger people just aren't getting out and engaging in the community - it's the people who've been around a long time who are used to communicating verbally," he said.

" ... eventually you can't operate with just a small group of people doing all the work in the community.

"In all smaller towns, younger people are working, both parents are working, they've got their children, schooling, sports - it's very hard to get new members to participate in any community group these days," Ms Paliew added.

"It's a bit of a struggle."

The watch's meetings involve a report from Leading Senior Constable Crisp, a police officer from Sale, and a guest speaker - which, in the past, has included prosecutors and solicitors.

"It's only four meetings a year, where you find out what's going on in your local community - come and talk to the local police, the meeting's are only short and sharp," Ms Paliew said.

"Please, come along and put into your town ... you'll get so much back."

Stratford and District Neighbourhood Watch's annual meeting will be held next Tuesday, August 20, from 7.30pm in the parish meeting room, Holy Trinity Church, McFarlane St, Stratford.

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