Force Neighbourhood Watch

Policy Scope:

This policy affects all South Yorkshire Police Staff.

This policy should be read in conjunction with Authorised Professional Practice (APP) - Engagement and Communications and Information Management.

Policy Aims and Objectives:

The policy is to deliver a consistent standard of service to Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) Groups throughout the Force area.

Watch Liaison Officers are expected to:

  • Gather information from the NHW Co-ordinators and ensure that it is submitted on a National Intelligence Record form into the relevant intelligence unit as soon as practicable.
  • Provide feedback to Neighbourhood Watch Groups.
  • Operate the South Yorkshire Police Watch Communications system at District level.
  • Maintain records of information distributed to NHW and retain for a period of 6 years.
  • Liaise with Crime and Disorder Reduction Officers to provide advice and literature as required to NHW Groups.
  • Comply with instructions on setting up of covert watches.
  • Concentrate District activities in setting up NHW schemes in Medium and High Crime areas.
  • Provide Support and guidance to the District NHW Association

1. A nominated individual within the force Community Safety Department will be tasked with the responsibility of Force Watch Liaison Officer. This person will provide support, resources, policy and advice to South Yorkshire NHW and relevant partners. The officer will liase with the Force Crime and Disorder Reduction Officer and South Yorkshire Neighbourhood Watch Association to determine a strategy in line with current policing issues.

The South Yorkshire NHW Association Committee (County Association) will ideally consist of:

  • The County Chair and Executive Officers
  • A representative from South Yorkshire Police HQ Community Safety Department
  • Neighbourhood Watch District Association representatives

The Force Watch liaison Officer will also be responsible for managing the South Yorkshire Police Watch Communication systems.

2. At Police Safer Neighbourhood Area level an officer will be identified to manage the specific partnership between the Police District and the Safer Neighbourhood Area NHW schemes. Either as full time, or as part of an existing role, this liaison officer will be expected to:

  • Be responsible for collation of all NHW Intelligence within their territorial area and act as the link between NHW Groups and the District Intelligence Office Unit.
  • Be responsible for providing feedback to NHW groups and to individual contributors of information/intelligence as appropriate.
  • Operate the South Yorkshire Police Watch Communication system at Area level for which training will be given, this will include the information sharing protocol.
  • To provide crime and disorder reduction advice and literature as requested in liaison with District Crime and Disorder Reduction Officers.
  • Provide support and guidance to the District NHW Association.

3. Each police area Liaison Officer will seek to work in partnership with the District NHW Association. The District NHW Association and its members MUST be affiliated to the South Yorkshire NHW County Association Committee (County Association) and MUST have a constitution as detailed by the National Neighbourhood Watch Association. The District Liaison Officer will also liase with the South Yorkshire Police Local Authority Liaison Inspectors to facilitate consultation between the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and the District NHW Association.

4. South Yorkshire Police will develop a three tier approach to the NHW within the County based on:

  • Low Level - Low crime areas.
  • Medium Level - Medium crime areas
  • High Level - High Crime areas.

These areas will be determined by Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S) by overlaying local crime levels from South Yorkshire Police recorded crime statistics onto local area maps. These will show the extent of crime in a particular area and will determine which level of support should be implemented.

District NHW liaison officers will concentrate their Districts efforts on developing, supporting and guiding NHW schemes in areas of High or Medium crime and disorder.

5. Covert Neighbourhood Watch Schemes

In June 2001, the Best Value review of NHW recommended that:

‘As a matter of urgency South Yorkshire Police formulate a policy with regard to the recruitment and retention of ‘covert watch schemes’ to include the use of a confidential source register’ (recommendation 3, page 25).

The recommendation arose from a recognition that in ‘hard to reach ‘ or ‘high crime areas’, NHW schemes had failed to gain ground due to an understandable reluctance on the part of residents to engage overtly with the police. The report stated that ‘the review has managed to identify a number of hard to reach areas where an almost underground network of NHW schemes, referred to as ‘Covert Watch’ are operating with often excellent support from the local community constable’.

The report quite rightly identified that such covert watch schemes (CWS) were unlikely to be offered any significant protection by the courts and that we may be failing in our duty of care. Therefore potential existed for harm, both to individuals involved in the schemes and to South Yorkshire police as an organisation.

It is true to say that persons acting as part of a CWS would not generally fall within the definition of a ‘Covert Human Intelligence Source’ (CHIS), as they would not ‘establish or maintain a personal relationship’ with a subject for the purpose of gathering information on behalf of the police. However it is easy to see situations in which this may be the case, in particular where an officer inadvertently ‘tasks’ the member of the CWS to follow up on information previously given. This places both the officer and the individual in a position where the provisions of RIPA have been breached. In general, officers undertaking duties as NHW co-ordinators will be adequately trained to both recognise and deal with the consequences of such action.

Since the review was written in June 2001, South Yorkshire police has clear policy on the use of ‘confidential sources’, defined by RIPA as:

‘Someone who, usually through access to information as a result of his or her occupation or residency, is able to supply useful intelligence and who, because of the sensitivity of the source of the information or because of the risk of harm to him or her personally or professionally, requires protection’.

It is clear that persons involved in CWS would qualify for registration as confidential sources. However, certain practical difficulties arise with regard to the registration of CWS:

  1. Registration can only apply specifically to individuals; it is not possible to register a ‘covert scheme’ and afford protection to all involved within it. Registration must be on an individual basis, with sufficient information given to allow the intelligence detective inspector, acting as controller, to make an informed risk assessment. This is likely to serve to dissuade individuals from coming forward.
  2. It would not be possible for an individual to be registered as a confidential source and act as a co-ordinator, giving information from others anonymously. This would not allow a true risk assessment to be done on the information, and may give undeserved status on the information.
  3. A defining principle of CHIS and confidential source management is that individuals involved do not disclose their status to others. This acts against any sense of a group scheme.
  4. Officers engaged on duties as NHW co-ordinators do not in general have a detailed knowledge of RIPA and associated force policy and may well inadvertently breach guidance.

Whilst this policy does not specifically exclude the use of CWS, the difficulties outlined above will generally make it inappropriate.

Good Neighbour Scheme

The Good Neighbour Scheme sets out procedure in respect of houses that are temporarily unoccupied whilst people are on holiday, or away from home for some other reason.

When a person contacts the police to say they are going to leave their house temporarily unoccupied they should be told that the police will record that the house is empty and pass this information onto the relevant SNT.

The person reporting should be advised to undertake the following:-

  • Have a friend or neighbour care for their home whilst they are away. At the very least this person should check the outside of the house regularly, but it is a good idea for them to have a key so that, if necessary, they can get into the house;
  • Secure all windows and doors;
  • Cancel services such as milk and newspaper deliveries.

The police will record details on a form GEN 54. Brief details from the form will be entered in a register and the original retained at district.

The carbonated copy will be forwarded to the relevant SNT for their information.

The form GEN/54 will be retained for one month after the date on which the occupier has said they will return and then destroyed.

Officers/ PCSOs are encouraged to visit and check houses that are temporarily unoccupied if possible.

NB . South Yorkshire Police should not represent to the public that visits will take place when resources and workload make it impossible to fulfill such an undertaking.

Associated Procedural Instructions:

This policy is supported by the following procedural instructions: n/a

Equality Act 2010: 

The Act places a statutory requirement for all Functions and Policies (Including Procedural Instructions) to be impact assessed for their level of relevance to the General Duty.

In principle, this document has been assessed for discrimination, which cannot be justified, among other diverse groups.

Human Rights/Discretion:

The purpose of providing policy is to give an indication to staff of the expected course of action. However it is not possible to cater for every possible combination of factors that would justify a departure from stated policy. The Human Rights Act 1998 requires the proper use of discretion at all times and nothing within this policy and associated procedural instructions prohibits the proper use of discretion in appropriate circumstances.

Where action is taken that has the potential to interfere with an individual’s Human Rights, the reasons behind the making of the decision to act in that way should be recorded on the appropriate forms, or where this is not practicable, in pocket books or policy logs.

Audit Arrangements:

This policy together with its Equality Analysis will be reviewed every 2 years.

Rights of redress for members of the public:

Anyone who feels that a member of staff has behaved incorrectly or unfairly, or who is dissatisfied with organisational matters, service delivery or other operational policing issues, has the right to make a complaint.

Initial action should be taken in one of the following ways:

  • Complain in writing or in person to the Senior Officer at the appropriate police station or to the Chief Constable of the force concerned.
  • Visit a local Citizens' Advice Bureau
  • Contact a Solicitor

Rights of redress for South Yorkshire Police personnel:

South Yorkshire Police personnel who feel they have grounds for concern in relation to the implementation of policies may, as appropriate:

  • Pursue concerns through their line manager.
  • Contact a First Contact Advisor.
  • Pursue a grievance formally through the South Yorkshire Police Fairness at Work Procedure.
  • Seek advice from their staff association or trades union.
  • Use the Policy for Handling Complaints relating to Direction and Control.

16 February 2004



Friday, 29 August, 2014 - 00:00