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An alphabetical list of crimes which the police may have to deal with could include antisocial behaviour, bicycle theft or damage, bribery, burglary, car crime, civil disputes, dangerous driving, dog theft, domestic abuse, doorstep crime, drug dealing and discarded needles, elder abuse, fly tipping, fraud, graffiti and tagging, hate crime, identity theft, lost or stolen vehicles, mugging, road traffic incidents, sexual assault and stalking.

Other police services include tracing missing persons and dealing with lost or found property.

In the UK, residents who are concerned about crime and community safety sometimes set up Neighbourhood Watch Schemes. This is where people get together with their neighbours to take action to reduce crime. To work well, these schemes need to develop a close relationship between community members and the police.

Cuts in the numbers of police, especially the numbers of Police Community Support Officers, do not favour Neighbourhood Watch Schemes. University studies show that bobbies on the beat really do prevent crime, so it is not helpful if a conscientious PCSO who mingles with the local community is reinterviewed for a mainly desk-based job. Residents appreciate seeing faces they recognise on the beat in their neighbourhoods rather than different people each time turning up in cars.

If you are fed up with seeing more crime, fewer patrols and poorer service, the person to write to is the Police and Crime Commissioner for your police force area. In my own county of Sussex, the Police and Crime Commissioner administers the "Safer in Sussex Community Fund", a source of money which could help to finance a Neighbourhood Watch or other initiative relating to community safety.

The fund cannot be used to finance CCTV or for improving street lighting. Private ownership of surveillance cameras is becoming more common, while the quality of street lighting is the responsibility of the Local Council. Some people say that poor street lighting makes them feel unsafe, though others are unhappy when light is too strong and shines into their homes.

Good Neighbourhood Watch schemes need to identify their points of focus. It may be worth looking at the crime statistics for your area, which may help to indicate priorities. Most schemes display stickers making it clear to everybody that the locality belongs to a Neighbourhood Watch scheme and local residents are vigilant.


-----© Ted Power