As with the whole of Britain, coronavirus might have Peters Village under lockdown, but the crisis has highlighted the community spirit fostered by the Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch founded in April 2019.
The fledgling community, within the Parish of Wouldham, did not really have a crime problem, but Neighbourhood Watch co-founders Barry Abraham and Steve Rimmington believed the group could help deter any future problem.
Through Barry’s previous experience as a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator elsewhere and Steve’s overall experience working within the security sector, they realised it could also foster pro-active neighbourly co-operation against other issues, such as anti-social behaviour, littering, dog fouling, graffiti, and vehicles speeding through the community.
Steve highlighted how much easier it is to run a Watch scheme today; where as members would previously have kept in touch by phone and knocking on doors, social media – notably WhatsApp and Facebook – enables instant alerts and updates, boosting effectiveness and confidence in the scheme.
The success of the Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) has been further supported by linking the group to the West Kent Neighbourhood Watch Association (WKNWA); Steve now sits on that group’s committee and Peters Village NHW was recently spotlighted in the association’s newsletter ‘Watch Out’.
“Access to the West Kent association is particularly useful,” said Steve. “Because criminal activities and anti-social behaviours occur across borough and parish boundaries, but any trends and patterns can be picked up from information fed into WKNWA from the various other local groups and police liaison.”
Local issues do not always have a local source either, as Steve points out in the case of litter on the banks of the River Medway in Peters Village:
“We get a lot of plastics washing up under Peters Bridge. It is not generated locally but arrives on the river current. It is not only unsightly, but a potential danger to the local wildlife, of which we are particularly proud in Peters Village (the community has a Site of Special Scientific Interest nature reserve that conserves the Great Crested Newt and a number of other rare species).
“So, with support from Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, which provided us with hi-vis vests, protective gloves, and other gear, we planned a community litter pick supporting the ‘Great British Spring Clean’. Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic has caused a delay. Trenport (the overall Peters Village developer) and the Environment Agency have also given their support.”
“Ultimately though, the Neighbourhood Watch is about being seen to be active and showing that we will not put up with those who think it’s OK to spread litter, commit petty crime and vandalism or speed through our village, endangering our families.”
As a further development, Steve has set up Peters Village ‘Speedwatch’, joining a national initiative where active members of local communities join with the support of the police to monitor speeds of vehicles using speed detection equipment.
If you would like to know more about or join the Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch or Peters Village Speedwatch please contact Steve at Petersvillagenhw@gmail.com
Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch co-founder Steve Rimmington interviewed about the group’s establishment:
"I moved to Peters Village in July 2017 and could see the benefits of bringing people closer together through developing a stronger community spirit, and promoting confidence that something positive was being done to prevent local crime and anti-social behaviour, thereby improving the quality of life for all living there.
Following research, it was clear that the Neighbourhood Watch network was the ideal voluntary organisation to deliver that objective.
Neighbourhood Watch is a partnership between the police and local communities supported by various other local and regional organisations such as the Kent County Council Community Wardens, Kent Trading Standards and others aiming to help people protect themselves and their property.
I’m grateful for all the advice and support I was given towards setting up the Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch, but particularly the Volunteer and Neighbourhood Watch Liaison Officer at Kent Police, Ourwatch.org.uk and the Neighbourhood Watch National Network.
Of course, it was also vital to discover whether Peters Village residents thought a Neighbourhood Watch was a good idea and, more importantly, give actual support. Their response was hugely positive, so I set up and registered Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch in April 2019 through the Ourwatch national network.
Once established, details were provided to all residents to register through the same network, to ensure they were legitimate residents of Peters Village, whilst providing them with security under the Data Protection Act (GDPR).
It was important that Peters Village also forged links to the regional network, so I registered with the excellent West Kent Neighbourhood Watch Association, with long-established links to Kent Police
In addition to the registration process, I also created a private Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch page on Facebook with all registered members automatically added to the page. No one is accepted onto this page unless they have registered via Ourwatch to the Peters Village scheme.
Facebook allows information from reliable sites such as the Kent Police and Crimestoppers to be circulated to all members, along with the regional information site E-watch, an invaluable source of wider information on events and incidents.
Peters Village Neighbourhood Watch scheme members can also join our WhatsApp group, which is used to send out instant messages about suspicious activity within the community. All residents are constantly encouraged to report all suspected criminal activity via 101, Crimestoppers or 999."
This is where the Peters Village team post regular updates on the latest happenings and developments in our new village.