The burgeoning Armidale Neighbourhood Watch has bright ideas for Armidale.
Lighting, closed-circuit television, and a new playground were some of the proposals discussed at a community meeting last month.
The morning event at the PCYC in August was “a huge success”, organiser Kathy Clare said.
About 25 people attended, including a representative from Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall's office. Mr Marshall himself was in state parliament.
Resurrecting the Neighbourhood Watch
Kathy Clare has resurrected the old Armidale Neighbourhood Watch group, which died away in the early 1990s.
“The Neighbourhood Watch group is to promote community safety, tips on securing homes and cars, your yard etc.,” Ms Clare said on Facebook.
“It is to bring the entire community together with good old fashioned values of knowing your neighbour, watching out for one another. It's about working as a community at the ground level, and supporting local organisations that are already doing a marvelous job.”
Hundreds of Armidale citizens already support the group on Facebook.
“I encourage as many as I can to come on board to make Armidale a nicer, safe place to live again,” Ms Clare wrote on Facebook.
“It’s a great way to meet people, and be involved with many groups to implement positive long lasting effects on our community for years to come.
“We have come a long way in just under 12 weeks with my phone and emails always running off the hook. I have dedicated a lot of time into doing this for the whole Armidale Community. For it to work, we need to come together as a Community.”
Generally, the Neighbourhood Watch will meet once or twice a month. It will post preventative measures for crime on its Facebook page, and help the PCYC with its programs.
Shedding light on Armidale crime
One proposal is to shed some light and keep an electronic eye on crime spots around Girraween.
"Increased lighting will hopefully act as a deterrent towards the crime,” Ms Clare said, “because there are a few dark areas on corners over there.
“The CCTV in the Girraween complex does not cover all angles of that little complex; it doesn't cover the carpark."
The Watch has spoken to one of the five owners of the Girraween complex, who have a little strata committee.
The group is also looking to apply for funding from the Nationals and Liberals to install lighting – and Adam Marshall MP, a supporter of the Watch, has helped them apply.
“Between us, the strata committee, and Council,” Ms Clare said, “we should be able to set up lighting.”
A new playground for Girraween?
The Watch group is also planning to build a playground on two acres of vacant land at the end of the Girraween complex belonging to Mick Wright and Richard Torbay.
At present, kids have no park on that side of town to play in.
The Watch will ask Council to help secure those blocks for leasing, and set up a park.
“If these chaps want to sell the land in five years' time,” Ms Clare said, “we could have it so the equipment can be unbolted and moved somewhere."
Say “Yes” to drug rehab
The Watch is also looking into the long-term benefits of a drug rehabilitation centre to cater for the New England area.
There isn’t one available for young people at the moment; Freeman House only caters for 18-year-olds and older.
At the moment, police have to refer repeat offenders to Coffs Harbour (190 km away), Newcastle (335 km), or Gosford (405 km) – which are already at full capacity, and have a waiting list.
It is unclear whether the Armidale region has enough people to warrant setting one up.
One solution may be to build a bigger facility, and extend it to outlying areas like Gunnedah, Narrabri, and Tamworth.
Working with council and police
The Watch group has also found a community security and safety audit done in Armidale and Girraween about eight to nine years ago.
"It was proposed then that there be increased lighting and CCTV when the NBN cables were put through,” Ms Clare said. “That hasn't been followed up. We'll see what we can pick out that hasn't been addressed, and highlight that to the council, as well."
Since the Watch’s meeting in July, the police have implemented a mobile bus in the Girraween area. A couple of nights a week, it picks up customers outside the service station, and takes them around the area.
"If the bus is parked in the Girraween area,” Ms Clare said, “I encourage them to go down, have a chat, support these guys, and discuss any concerns they might have or issues directly with the police.
“That's been quite positive. It's something the police can be commended on."
The police may also build a mobile or smaller police building on the western side of Armidale.
"There would be a smaller police station, manned all the time, rather than everybody operating out of the main big one on the other side of town," Ms Clare said.
On Saturday, the group will have a stall at the Community Connect Day at Kmart Plaza.