Watchers on patrol are taking control

RESIDENTS of Houghton Regis are taking control of their streets as volunteers patrol the area for Street Watch, tackling anti-social problems. I accompanied PC Darren Banbury and Street Watch chairman Peter Carrington on patrol to find out more about the scheme.

On the day we visited Houghton Regis, a mobile police unit was at the recreation ground and officers were enjoying a game of football with some of the local children.

The football and goalposts were supplied by the police following complaints from young people that there was nothing for them to do, and at the peak of the holidays last year there were 30 or 40 children turning up on a regular basis to use the equipment and have a kickabout.

This is an example of the community involvement that makes Street Watch work, and shows how communication between residents, Street Watch representatives and the police can make a real difference.

PC Banbury, who works with safer neighbourhood Sergeant Lisa Johnson and the volunteers said: “Street Watch volunteers are our eyes and ears on the streets. It’s not about asking residents to do our jobs for us, but they see things we might not. It’s about taking responsibility for the area you live in.

“Events like today are all about interacting with young people and getting to know them, which eventually reduces anti-social behaviour.”

Typical things that Street Watch might address are broken street lights, fly tipping, parking problems and anti-social behaviour.

On our patrol we saw cars parked across pavements and graffiti on lampposts, things which Mr Carrington explained he could report on the Street Watch system, as well as approaching the residents concerned if appropriate to discuss the problem and find a solution.

Mr Carrington said: “It feels good to take responsibility for where I live and be able take action when I see problems.”

Approaching groups of youths who are causing trouble could be quite intimidating but Mr Carrington says he doesn’t feel scared.

Mr Carrington said: “It depends on the situation but usually if you talk to them reasonably they react well compared to if you go in shouting and being aggressive. ”

PC Banbury emphasised that they do not ask residents to do anything they are not happy doing, they are just giving them the tools and support to make their community better.

Some young people have even expressed an interest in joining Street Watch themselves once they are old enough and Mr Carrington believes it has made a real difference to the area.