Ongoing petty crime has prompted the revival of Ballarat’s Neighbourhood Watch program after a five-year hiatus. The project has been re-launched in the hope of reducing minor criminal offences in the city, while also bringing the community closer together.
There has been a stream of home burglaries occurring throughout the day and night, as well as motor vehicle theft and theft from vehicles, according to Ballarat Police.
Although there has been a 1.3% decrease in low-harm crime within the past year, there has also been a 6.7% increase in total criminal incidents in the Ballarat region, according to the Crime Statistics Agency.
While many houses and cars are being physically broken into with tools, Ballarat Police have found that some residents are forgetting to lock their house and car doors, making it easy for criminals to rob their possessions.
Don Alderman, acting Sergeant of the Ballarat Police, has personally witnessed the various accounts of minor crime in the district.
“We are seeing a lot of opportunistic crimes that are going on, crooks are roaming the streets looking for unattended handbags and wallets, valuables and sometimes car registration plates. It’s something that is ongoing and unrelenting, unfortunately, and is not going away,” he said.
However, Sergeant Alderman is optimistic that the reimplementation of the Neighbourhood Watch program will help reduce these offences.
“The scheme sells itself because it is free, so people don’t have to pay money to sign up, and it’s something that once you get involved and start listening to some of the advice that is given, and proactively going about life, the likelihood of you being a victim is reduced,” he said.
The program will run meetings on a quarterly basis, where residents of the community can voice their concerns to members of the Neighbourhood Watch and Ballarat Police. In turn, police will offer advice to the local community about crime prevention, in the hope of reducing the chance of residents being becoming victims of crime.
Sergeant Alderman said: “There’s a lot more to Neighbourhood Watch than just making sure your car and home is locked – they try to really develop ties with the community which is really valuable … and for Ballarat it is much needed.”
It is a program that not only aims to reduce levels of crime, but also foster relationships with neighbours to create a greater sense of community engagement.
Ballarat mayor Des Hudson supports the decision to reintroduce the police-governed program to the local area.
“In terms of community safety and neighbourhood wellbeing, it’s an ideal program that connects neighbours with each another,” he said. “It’s able to strengthen them to watch out for one another, and they are encouraged to report suspicious behaviour. Part of it is about encouraging people to grow their voice and become active, rather than passive.”
“It is a really great way to deliver safer places in the community, as it encourages a great awareness of what the acceptable standards should be.”
Ballarat Police will conduct an information session about the program in upcoming weeks.