Criminals' cash to fund Neighbourhood Watch program?
By Michael Harvey
The Gillard Government will today use money from selling confiscated criminal assets to fund an expansion of the long-running Neighbourhood Watch program.
Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor is raiding what he dubs "the cemetery" of organised crime proceeds.
"We are taking the ill-gotten gains of the crooks and giving it to community organisations to assist law enforcement bodies and police in fighting crime," Mr O'Connor said last night.
The minister will announce $1.5 million for Neighbourhood Watch Australasia over three years - the biggest Commonwealth funding for community-based crime prevention.
Everyday Australians will get a say in how the money is spent by applying to use local-level grants for community safety and crime prevention.
Examples could include engaging cybercrime experts to teach seniors groups about dangers posed by online scammers.
The $1.5 million will also be used to develop specific strategies in remote areas to combat crime and, of increasing importance, the fear of crime.
Money will be diverted into better adapting Neighbourhood Watch programs to new technology - improving the use of social media in the daily battle against burglars, vandals and other criminals.
A national office with full-time staff will be set up for Neighbourhood Watch Australasia for the first time, supporting tens of thousands of volunteers.
Neighbourhood Watch Australasia president Tess Walsh applauded the use of crime proceeds to help her organisation reach more communities.
"It's an extension of the saying 'crime does not pay' - maybe it pays for some people to do good things," Ms Walsh said.
Neighbourhood Watch is the biggest community-based crime prevention program in the country, covering more than three million homes.
"The best thing about community efforts like Neighbourhood Watch is that they are run by local people who know the needs of their communities and have come up with innovative ways to provide help where it's most needed," Mr O'Connor said.
While the Baillieu Government provided extra state funding in the April Budget, today's announcement is a first for the Commonwealth.