“There is real community spirit here,” says the neighbourhood watch founder. :: R. L.
Official neighbourhood watch organisation and firm of solicitors give advice on setting up local schemes to reduce rural burglaries
Nearly 100 people attended a public meeting at Venta Los Arcos between Coín and Cártama on Monday to hear how setting up neighbourhood watch schemes could help reduce house burglary in the area.
The meeting, which had been organised by members of an internet based group that shares information about local robberies and suspicious activity, included a guest speaker from ‘Vecinos Cooperando’, an officially recognised neighbourhood watch organisation originally formed in Torrevieja in Alicante in 1999 but now covering 2,500,000 homes across 55 towns between Jávea and Malaga.
At the meeting, Geoff Salter from Vecinos Cooperando explained that the idea behind the non-profit making organisation was not to create vigilante groups but instead to share information with local authorities and to form strong links with the police or Guardia Civil. “Neighbourhood watch is about watching the neighbourhood, not the neighbours!” joked Salter, adding that members of the various groups do not patrol the streets, they simply report any suspicious behaviour. “If you see an unknown car or people acting suspiciously, you can report it to your local Vecinos Cooperando coordinator, who in turn collates the information before passing it to the authorities,” he explained.
Also supporting the event were solicitors from De Cotta Law who provided legal advice on a range of questions from those in attendance, including the legalities of using closed circuit televisions in Spain, the use of reasonable force in apprehending a thief you find on your property, the process of making a denuncia (Spanish police report) and why it is important to report each crime because every report is taken into consideration when thieves are eventually caught. The lawyers, who volunteered their time to attend the event, also explained the different grades of offence that exist within the Spanish legal system.
Stuart Hilton, who lives in the countryside between Cártama and Coín, organised the meeting after Facebook users posted details of a number of house robberies, particularly in rural locations around Coín, Cártama and Alhaurín el Grande. He said “It has been a really positive meeting with lots of good feedback on setting up some schemes here similar to those described by Geoff Salter. For anyone who couldn’t make the event today, we will be putting some of the information on the Facebook page ‘Neighbourhood Watch-Spain’ in the next few days.”
After the meeting had closed, Geoff Salter told SUR in English “Neighbourhood Watch is not a magic wand. Really it is just a way of persuading criminals to go elsewhere but we have seen a 65 per cent drop in crime in Torrevieja since the scheme was set up there. I was overwhelmed that so many people want to get involved at the meeting today and it was useful to have the lawyers here. It just shows that there is real community spirit here.”