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Neighbours supporting neighbours

Stratford Press
19 May 2011


Numbers of neighbours on the lookout for each other are growing fast in Central Taranaki.

That's a good thing, because in the event of a calamity like Christchurch's earthquake, people need the ability to look after each other, says Community Constable Jonno Erwood of the Stratford Police.

He is helping community safety officer Dalwyn Smart promote and set up Neighbourhood Support groups in the community, which help residents to work together to reduce crime in their areas. There are now 433 households covered by 45 groups.

Neighbourhood Support unites a groups of households to watch for suspicious behaviour and crime in their community. Through the initial meetings and a regular newsletter, people get to know more about what is happening.

It also helps people get to know their neighbours and recreates the community closeness of the past, without intruding on privacy.

Dalwyn and Jonno have been busy speaking to community groups as well as meeting with new groups to get them set up. Usually, a meeting of the interested residents is held at somebody's home or the police station, and the scheme explained. Everyone's emails and contact details are gathered and members get window stickers to alert possible criminals that they will be seen.

One person in the group acts as contact person, which only takes a little of their time. Most people get their monthly newsletters and other information via email. A sign is attached to power poles outside the homes, which acts as another deterrent.

The scheme definitely reduces crime in the areas covered, says Jonno, as the signs deter criminals and the group members are more educated about preventing crime.

"People are more aware of what is suspicious behaviour and what's not. I recall a case of a burglary on Brecon Rd where a neighbour, an old lady, kept a diary and noted down anything that looked suspicious. She gave us a very good description and helped us catch someone and break a burglary ring."

The residents of Elizabeth R Rest Home in Stratford became one of the latest Neighbourhood Support Groups after a visit by Dalwyn and Jonno recently.

Joining the scheme means a little added security for the home's residents and also those who live in the self contained villas there. The home residents can also help by keeping an eye on their neighbourhood, Dalwyn explains.

"We're really keen to get some more of the rest homes in Stratford and Eltham on board."

The scheme can help people in case of a medical emergency or a disaster like an earthquake.

It's particularly valuable for elderly people, especially if they live alone.

"An old lady in Christchurch spent 12 days on her own thinking the world had ended. She had no water or power, she just battled on alone all that time. Nobody bothered to check on her," says Jonno.


Source: http://www.stratfordpress.co.nz/local/news/neighbours-supporting-neighbours/3952512/

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