According to Goolwa coordinator Pat Salter, the community-based program is not simply about fighting crime, but genuinely caring about our neighbours.
“It’s also not about not minding your own business or even running a vigilante group,” Pat said. “You might have an elderly person living next door and if you haven’t seen the person for a few days as per normal go and knock on the door; someone may need help.
“Neighbourhood Watch plays its role in helping our police, but just as important is everyone feeling part of a community that looks out for each other.
“Promoting the need for community awareness is, of course, so important; being ready to ring 131 444 if something is not right, or in a real emergency 000 to get police attendance.
“If you feel something is not right and you see something or hear something you say something. The reality is that there are limited resources everywhere; we can be the police eyes and hears. Every small piece of knowledge may be important in apprehending a person who has committed a crime.
“Unfortunately, we do have a high crime rate down here which is not acceptable, and we are trying to deal with that. It is the reason why we have been recently allocated extra police and we now have five permanently stationed here, which is excellent, plus extended hours.
“With Neighbourhood Watch it is a matter of knowing what is around you, and looking after personal safety… locking your car, not leaving your handbag in your trolley whilst shopping; simple things. When you put these things into place you get that feeling of comfort so that you know you are doing the best thing as much as possible.”
Pat represents the Goolwa branch, which is linked to the Hills/Fleurieu sector, which in turn is part of a huge network that has embraced 600 Neighbourhood Watch areas since the first in SA at Flinders Park in the metropolitan area on May 1, 1985. The concept began in the late 60s in Queens, New York, USA, and followed in New South Wales in the late 70s.
In SA, the network expanded to incoporate Rural Watch in Peterborough in 1989, and later Business Watch and School Watch, which has also been set up in Goolwa.
Pat said she felt good about playing her role in the Goolwa region. “I grew up in a country town, in Rutherglen in north-east Victoria, and in those days we didn’t have the crime rate in country towns as we do now,” she said.
“I never grew up knowing there were issues like we have here. I think it is a lot about where we are situated and until recently the police presence wasn’t huge. Most of the crime is caused by out-of-town people believing they can get away with more here than they can in the city.
“Most of our community members are quite concerned what has been going on, and we need to tidy that up. We need to instill that confidence back in the community that we are going alright.”
SA Police at Victor Harbor will host about 50 representatives of the Hills/Fleurieu sector for a briefing session and morning team on Wednesday, May 14. In between the cups of tea and scones Pat is sure familiar stories will be exchanged on how communities can play their role.
“Our police do everything they can; it’s also up to us to play our part in helping them,” she said.
The Goolwa branch has 12 members who attend meetings on the first Thursday of every month at Barton Real Estate in Cadell Street. If you would like to get involved in the Goolwa branch of Neighbourhood Watch – you don’t have to attend the meetings – contact Pat on 8555 5202. She believes the group is making a difference; everyone can.
Most towns across the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island have a Neighbourhood Watch group or are linked in some way. Visit: http://www.watchsa.com.au/