Neighbourhood Watch in Commercial Centre Hailed as First of its Kind
Staff Reporter / 2007-04-30 15:16:59
Neighbourhood Watch has been working very well throughout over 100 urbanisations in the Costa Blanca area, that is, over 13,000 homes. There are 72 groups, the first of which was formed 13 years ago in Cabo Roig. The La Zenia group has been working successfully since 2000. However this is the first time a Neighbourhood Watch has been set up in a Commercial Centre on the Costa Blanca. At first glance you may think the needs and wishes for an urbanisation would differ quite dramatically to those of a commercial centre, but at the end of the day both want tranquillity, no graffiti, safety from vandalism and crime and really a commercial centre should be the heart of the community.
Chris Poole and his wife Meryl started the ball rolling for the scheme in La Zenia in 2000 and are now the coordinators for the area, helped by Keith Carter and Sandra and Tony Gooch, for the 12 groups in Playa Flamenca. They distribute leaflets to houses in the area in Spanish, English and German, which are provided by the Town Hall. To join costs nothing and members are multi-national.
The Flamenca Beach Commercial Centre is a hubbub of bars, restaurants and shops, and should be a pleasant place to visit. Since the Neighbourhood Watch started there a month ago they have noticed a huge improvement in the general atmosphere. Glen Mathews from the Landsdown Bar seems to have been nominated coordinator of the new collaboration and says they want to nip the crime in the bud. A meeting was held last Thursday for all the businesses in the centre who all want to participate in the scheme. They exchanged ideas and have decided to have walkie-talkies, which would be switched on to the same frequency, so they have constant contact with each other. They also plan to put up posters explaining how Neighbourhood Watch works for them, plus stickers on each participating business with the phone number of the Policia Local. Since the meeting they have improved the illumination and lighting in the centre, leaving not one dark corner and thus putting a stop to any shady dealings that may have gone on in the past. The Police are carrying out more patrols in the area and their increased presence has definitely improved the feel of the place.
So how does Neighbourhood Watch work? Basically look, listen and report anything suspicious. It is non political and does not patrol. The local police are 110 % behind them, as are the Guardia Civil and the town hall. As soon as someone or something suspicious is spotted this is reported to the police. Also all the groups in the area communicate by Email or Fax and pass on any relevant information, such as descriptions of a suspect or their car.
The Local Police, who attended the meeting on 26th April to present the concept, are more than happy to give their support to this collaboration. They plan to firstly inspect all the businesses to ensure licences are in order and suggest that each business displays its licence in a prominent position. They also want to enforce closing times to follow the legal requirements, which are; 1.30am for bars, pubs about 3.00am and clubs 4.30am, give or take half an hour. They comment that just their increased presence has put a stop to any drug-trafficking and robbery that went on and added that they want the area to be safe for both the public and businesses.
The organisers wish to urge you to not turn the other way when you see something suspicious. Any problems tourists experience here put them off returning. The police add that they need information, without information they can do nothing. If language is a problem there is a number you can call in Madrid, to which you can report a crime in English, French, German and other languages. The number is 902 102 112, from 08.00hrs to 22.00hrs. However, if you follow this procedure you must then go into a National Police Station up to 72 hours later to sign the form they will have received from Madrid. This will give you your incident number for insurance purposes. The police would much rather you reported the crime locally if at all possible, as this makes follow ups generally quicker.
Also everyone is encouraged to get their Padron as the more people who are registered as living in an area, the more police will be working there. So don't forget, if you see something suspicious, report it. 112 will reach the police at any time.