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Fedster

Vigilantes promise 'listening alternative' for neighbourhoods living in fear of crime

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Fedster

Hundreds turn to new group after losing faith in service.

Rising tide of violence: A traffic warden gets a kicking in the West Midlands

Rising tide of violence: A traffic warden gets a kicking in the West Midlands

Date - 16th November 2018
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
6 Comments6 Comments}

 

A vigilant group has moved on to the streets of Britain’s second city to “fill the gaps” exposed by an under-resourced police service crying out for adequate funding from the government.

Facebook has assisted in spawning the 550-strong community watchdog group ‘We Stand Determined’ – just weeks after an unsuccessful petition to get more officer numbers in Birmingham.

Left “doing the best they can” in a “catch 22” situation, West Midlands Police now has an alternative force encouraging its social media members and the wider community to report any dangers and threats, day or night amid fears crime is spiralling out of control. 

We Stand Determined – set up three weeks ago – runs twice-weekly patrols across the city but insists the group is non-violent and seeks to work in partnership with the force, not against it, as a new line of defence for residents.

Three organisers, only known as Wayne, Tracy and Michael, said they launched the group after discovering a friend had been attacked in his home by thieves armed with hammers.

Solihull-based college lecturer Wayne, 47, said the group represents a “friendly approach” while the police can be “standoffish to people in communities”.

He admitted the group’s “biggest achievement to date is how quickly it has taken off and we have got the trust of the residents”.

He added: “The way our group started, and the reaction we’ve had, has showed us how much local communities need groups like us to fill in the gaps the authorities simply don’t have the funding for.

“There has been a recent spate of crime in Birmingham recently and Solihull in particular has fallen victim to an increase of just under 1,500 more cases so far this year.

“People needed someone to turn to, someone who will listen and visit them in their home if a constituent is fearful for their own safety.

“We’re vigilantes, but we’re vigilantes with a twist, working within the law and not against it.

“Our group is a central place for the local community to come together to log crimes, comment and help stop crime in the area.”

The group wants to generate a new level of support with buddy systems for the elderly and defence classes for anyone who feels unable to protect themselves.

The advent of the vigilantes comes in the wake of an apparent “loss of trust” in policing from the public and embattled service chiefs admitting austerity – with the government overseeing a reduction in police numbers by 20,000 officers since 2010 – has impacted by cutting funding by a fifth in the same period.

Senior officers have spoken out at the “crippling” impact Treasury demands to increase pension contributions will impose on a service now facing further swingeing cuts to officer numbers.

Technical change to pension calculation – costing an extra £417 million and a potential 10,000 positions – means a return to numerical totals in policing last seen nearly half a century ago.

For England’s second biggest force – West Midlands – Chief Constable Dave Thompson has called for an emergency budget to address finding £22.6 million by 2021, accusing ministers of “getting their maths wrong”.

Those pension changes alone equate to a potential shedding of 500 officers for the West Midlands force; the lowest officer level in Greater Manchester’s 44-year history with the first cuts in numbers for eight years; and a £24 million shortfall in West Yorkshire’s finances. 

For Merseyside, Chief Constable Andy Cooke paints the grimmest of pictures – warning that the latest blow to policing’s coffers has turned his much-vaunted force from “proactive” to “reactive” – and left officers “struggling to provide a service” and fighting to preserve their “mental and physical wellbeing”.

Earlier this week West Mercia chief constable Anthony Bangham admitted there was just “not enough” officers to respond to every crime in his region.

A crime survey of 10,000 respondents earlier this summer across the West Midlands region revealed half did not feel safe with two thirds never seeing officers on patrol in their area, 87 per cent thought the police were not doing a good job, 94 per cent had lost faith in the criminal justice system, and 97 per cent reckoned the government was not acting tough enough on crime

The West Midlands force would not be drawn on the new vigilantes, with a spokeswoman saying it “intended to reply” but had “no comment” at this stage.

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TheMoo

Well...I can't see this can't possibly go horribly wrong.

While it's good to see people have some community spirit left;

1) it's a terrible state of affairs that people feeling like this is needed

2) it's going to be very very easy for this to turn into a mob and for someone to get hurt.

3) Something something something Specials?

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Zulu 22

I agree that this has the hallmarks of everything going wrong that could.  Some how someone has to get through to Mrs May the damage that she has done to Policing. Perhaps a cut to her Personal  Protection Officers would get the message through.  

Mrs May, for the thousandth time you cannot get more from less.

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ParochialYokal

I think it is disappointing that they have chosen to call themselves ‘vigilantes’ and have taken pride in the expedience of which they have managed to mobilise.

 

Clearly, they are not trying to pretend that they are employing any professionalism in the way that they recruit or train their ‘members’.

 

I suspect that this is the shape of things to come and that it is unstoppable. So why not offer an alternative?

 

It’s about time that neighbourhood watch was taken to the next level and that the police service deployed volunteers with limited designated powers.

 

You might ask why someone would want to do that? I enjoyed being a Special but could not necessarily commit myself at the moment to doing so again. Also, I wouldn’t both going on duty for anything less than 4 hours and did a distance away from home. However, I probably would volunteer locally for 2 hours at a time in my local neighbourhood.

 

Social media means that people need to be given a valid alternative to participate in protecting their own communities. We have already seen instances abroad where people have been lynched as a result of WhatsApp groups, such as India.

 

(edit) There apparently are some ‘Street Watch’ schemes but these don’t appear to be rolled out everywhere.

 

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Radman
10 minutes ago, ParochialYokal said:

I think it is disappointing that they have chosen to call themselves ‘vigilantes’ and have taken pride in the expedience of which they have managed to mobilise.

Clearly, they are not trying to pretend that they are employing any professionalism in the way that they recruit or train their ‘members’.

I suspect that this is the shape of things to come and that it is unstoppable. So why not offer an alternative?

It’s about time that neighbourhood watch was taken to the next level and that the police service deployed volunteers with limited designated powers.

You might ask why someone would want to do that? I enjoyed being a Special but could not necessarily commit myself at the moment to doing so again. Also, I wouldn’t both going on duty for anything less than 4 hours and did a distance away from home. However, I probably would volunteer locally for 2 hours at a time in my local neighbourhood.

Social media means that people need to be given a valid alternative to participate in protecting their own communities. We have already seen instances abroad where people have been lynched as a result of WhatsApp groups, such as India.

I don't know about neighbourhood watch types being deployed but I certainly believe there is scope for some form of 'peace officer' status or a return of the classic meaning of 'special constable' for everyday low level enforcement independent of county forces accountable to local authorities and potentially other organisations such as large land owners or governmental departments.

This isn't an American thing either (as I can hear being chanted) but a world thing found in Canada, Australia and even continental Europe.

End of the day if there is a market or problem that the state is failing to rectify people will try to take it on themselves to solve.

Something does need to change. 

Edited by Radman
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ParochialYokal
I don't know about neighbourhood watch types being deployed but I certainly believe there is scope for some form of 'peace officer' status or a return of the classic meaning of 'special constable' for everyday low level enforcement independent of county forces accountable to local authorities and potentially other organisations such as large land owners or governmental departments.

This isn't an American thing either (as I can hear being chanted) but a world thing found in Canada, Australia and even continental Europe.

End of the day if there is a market or problem that the state is failing to rectify people will try to take it on themselves to solve.

Something does need to change. 

 

I agree.

 

Police Volunteers can now be designated with most police powers, other than a power of arrest. They can also be issued with spray and batons. Legislation doesn’t need to change as the tools are there.

 

The legislation is there to do something differently but I am not sure if many forces have done anything that creative, other than issuing high vis tabards to the stereotypical over 65 cohort whom make up Neighbourhood Watch.

 

Unless the police service can innovate, social media will increasingly become a platform for ‘digital vigilantes’ to mobilise and patrol. A lot of people already belong to groups, like Facebook community groups or WhatsApp residents groups. There are tens of thousands of these groups that provide a ready recruit pool to a new type of volunteer role.

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