Revamping Neighbourhood Watch

The City of South Perth has introduced a new approach to community safety and crime prevention. The CoSP Community Safety Collective is a not-for-profit organisation seeking to harness the power of social media to build a safer community.

Previously operating under the Neighbourhood Watch banner, the group rebranded on October 10. As outlined on its website, the Collective’s goal is to promote community safety by encouraging hyperlocal communication via social media.

Five subject matter experts lead the Collective—covering the areas of community, security, criminology and urban design. Together they run the website and supervise five volunteer-run hyperlocal Facebook groups, one for each ward area under the CoSP jurisdiction.

The CoSP Community Safety Collective Facebook groups are accessible to all City of South Perth residents (Photo: Armando Viscarra Rossel, 2020).

Community expert and Head of CSC Samantha Duhamel said: “We hope that as a collective, we’ll be called upon to guide, advise and empower, but ultimately change will be instigated by community members themselves.

“We felt that there was a real disconnect between ‘the authorities’ and ‘the people’ when it came to traditional methods of community safety and crime prevention in the City of South Perth and that a conduit between the two was required.”

The new initiative comes as part of the CoSP Council’s Community Safety and Crime Prevention Plan 2019–2021. Mrs Duhamel, who helped to draft the document, said the plan “dovetails directly into the CSC’s strategic objectives”.

The plan included a survey conducted in 2019 on community safety and crime prevention in the CoSP. The survey revealed that nearly 20 per cent of residents felt either ‘unsafe’ or ‘somewhat unsafe’ in the area.

The survey also found the three most significant safety concerns of residents were burglaries and home intrusion, antisocial behaviour, and theft of possessions from motor vehicles. Crime statistics from WA Police show that there is substance to the community’s concerns.

In 2019, the CoSP recorded a slight increase in the number of dwelling burglary offences and stealing offences from the previous year. Both these offences have consistently ranked among the most common crimes over the past decade.

Como resident, Tristan Owen, said she’s been wary of crime since she moved into the area last year: “I knew the level of theft and break-ins was pretty high. We certainly lock our doors, and we also installed security cameras, which is something I have never lived with before.”

Ms Owen added she has been using the CSC website and a Como West hyperlocal Facebook group to stay up-to-date on community safety news.

“I’m a member of the Como West CSC Facebook group. I like the idea of having a specific group for reporting crime incidents. It makes the other community Facebook groups I’m in a little less alarming,” she said

“I also appreciate that the advice you receive in the CSC group is a lot saner than some of the vigilante-style advice I see people giving in other groups. I think it’s great that one of the CSC’s slogans is ‘Be vigilant, not a vigilante’.”

When planning its rebrand, the CSC recognised it would initially lack the brand recognition and legitimacy that Neighbourhood Watch provided. To solve this issue, the group sought out strategic partnerships with members of the community.

Partners of the CSC include the Community Development team at the CoSP Council; Curtin University, via the CurtinLink internship program; Kensington Police; and the Neighbourhood Watch Australasia President.

Curtin Marketing student and intern at the CSC, Zachary Riordan, was involved in designing and implementing the new website and given the responsibility of developing a social media presence.

Screenshot of the homepage of the CoSP Community Safety Collective website (2020).

Mr Riordan said the group had planned offline marketing strategies, in addition to their online channels. However, due to COVID-19, the CSC has delayed these plans.

“Offline marketing strategies include merchandise bags containing resources that encourage neighbours to interact with one another, such as greeting cards and cookies. Community events will also be a focus of the CSC in the future, but plans have been postponed due to COVID-19,” he said.

Mr Riordan’s internship will finish at the end of 2020, and he will hand over maintenance and promotional responsibilities to a new marketing and advertising team member.

Information about the CoSP Community Safety Collective and useful crime prevention resources can be found on its website.