Maitland residents encouraged to form Neighbourhood Watch groups during Neighbourhood Watch week

Social media has changed the way many things operate, but perhaps none more so than our local Neighbourhood Watch groups.

“Twenty years ago, information was passed on through a community newsletter,” Neighbourhood Watch Hunter Region coordinator and Metford man Bill Hackney said.

Social media, and Facebook in particular, has contributed to a resurgence in the number of neighbourhood watch groups across the Hunter.

In Maitland alone, there is Beresfield/Thornton/Woodberry, Telarah, Metford, Heritage Park and Aberglasslyn/Rutherford.

The newest group, Aberglasslyn/Rutherford, already has almost 7,000 members on its Facebook.

“It’s much easier now to get the message across,” Mr Hackney said. 

“People can pass on community tips, anything from a lost dog to major incidents.”

This week is National Neighbourhood Watch week, and people are being encouraged to join their local group or form one in their area.

It is also a chance to educate people about the concept and community safety.

Mr Hackney, who won the NSW Police Neighbourhood Watch volunteer of the year award this year, said it was amazing how many people didn’t know the right way to report crime. This is another area where Facebook is so useful, he said.

“We find a lot of people used Facebook before they’ve spoke to the police,” Mr Hackney said.

“We say have you reported this to the police?

“It’s an opportunity to educate people. We’re there to help and assist.”

And people do reach out for that help. Mr Hackney said people had regularly asked him to contact the police about different incidents, as they either don’t know how to talk to the police or don’t feel comfortable.

The groups have had a positive impact. Mr Hackney said people stopped him in the street to tell him what a difference their local group had made.

And along with helping catch criminals, the groups also prevent crime by offering tips to residents.

Theft from motor vehicle remains in Maitland is among the highest in the state, so the Metford group has obtained 1400 car air fresheners with a message to drivers to keep valuables out of sight.

Anyone interested in learning about Neighbourhood Watch can visit www.nhwa.com.au.

The Metford group will hold an information booth at Green Hills McDonalds on October 14 as part of McHappy Day.

This story Tackling crime the new-fashioned way first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.