Neighbourhood Watch to Neighbourhood Support!
In St Mary's Bay, a micro suburb in Auckland, NZ there emerged a mutation to the concept of Neighbourhood support. Where instead of peeping and spying at your neighbour, visitors and what went on in your street, it was encouraged that we support our neighbour by getting to know them better, talking with each other more often - this way there would be more social intercourse where we extended our friendships to a wider expanding circle.
It's concept was supported by the large insurance company NZI - New Zealand Insurance, (now bought out) and the local police constable was also integral to how the system worked.
Unfortunately, it didn’t make it as a workable universal model, as the challenge was to obtain a volunteer to be a willing active street coordinator. However, here is an extension that could be a blue- print for the new emerging paradigm of social consciousness.
This is how I participated:
As the neighbourhood representative of our street Yarborough St a very small street, I met every person or house representative who lived in the street myself as I had a clip board with every house number, name of inhabitant and phone number and even went as far as producing my own news ‘broad sheet’ which I printed off for those in the street. It was an enjoyable public spirited fun thing to do for a couple of years. We had 'get togethers in each others house for drinks and nibbles and watch a video of how to care for our neighbors around security issues and a couple of times a year would gather down in the adjacent green grassy square with others to have food and drink, such as at Christmas. I also communicated with the local constable to let him know what was happening on our street.
To take Neighbourhood to the next level as a coordinated cooperative way, the below is a possible way.
The aim is simple:
1) Divide your borough into defined sectors or quadrants of about 25 streets, roads, and avenues.
2) Select a volunteer from your street as a representative to act on your behalf of your street or section of street. If your street has hundreds of houses, then divide the street up to say a maximum of 35 houses/apartments, per street co ordinators.
3) The carrot to bring these street coordinators on board would be to offer them a discount or rebate on their annual housing rates or some other method tied to this model.
4) Their job would be to liaise with every house-hold representative in the street. Where they would introduce themselves and tell them that they are there to support them by being a liaison between them, the local council, as well as the police.
They explain that they write up the names of all those occupants in the house, take only their house phone number and advise them that if there is any pressing matters that effect them in the street, that every 1, or 2 months (to be decided by council) they (along with other Street Coordinators in the local area) will meet with the authorities to brief them of what is happening in their street. You don’t have to give the names of the people over to anyone. It remains with the St Coordinator. (Yes their is privacy requirements around this.)
You may also impress upon them security needs, when going away i.e have someone pick up their mail every day, leaving different low energy lights on in different rooms at night, pull curtains back one day and alter the blinds to give the impression the house is not vacant etc plus anything relating to health and safety. Maybe offer them a DVD on home and street security, or discuss a w.w.web site devoted to this subject.
Finally when the Street / Road Coordinators go as a group to the local council offices once every 4, 6 or 9 months, they gather in front of councillors, the local police constable and possibly the Deputy Mayor and each St Coordinator is asked to give a 2 to 4 minute synopsis of what’s happening on their respective street.
Items that could be covered are:
Number of incidences in your street over the last 6 months.
Need for more judder bars to curtail speeding.
A need for a rubbish bin at the end of the street where, there maybe is a park/beach etc.
Better street lighting.
That the street needs better cleaning, of debris etc.
Removal of graffiti from walls etc
That there were either no burglaries or a burglary / assault that happened on such a such a date. And what resulted.
If there was a house fire etc.
This meeting would possibly last for a total of one and a half to two hours. At the end of this time the Councillors, Mayor and Police would have a fairly comprehensive understanding of what’s happening throughout the community and suburb.
The above is a frame work, a blueprint with what we can possibly do to enable a peaceful system of neighbourhood support to be active nationwide.
This Neighbourhood Support concept needs central Government and local Government support.
Yes, there are issues around privacy, however I am sure that these can be worked through.
And depending on how organised everyone in the street is, as well as how much time the St coordinator has, you could have a Street party, especially at Christmas where carols were sung.
Where we were at St Mary's Bay, we had a small park where we had Guy Fawkes celebration (of all ghoulish things) with bonfire and crackers for the kids, and parents would bring snacks and drinks and it was an opportunity to get to know your neighbours. We even had the neighbourhood men get together to plant a good number of daffodil bulbs in the corners of the park and they are still bursting forth every spring in increasing numbers.
The concept of Neighbourhood Support is an idea whose time has come, especially with economic realities and social dysfunctionality and climate change becoming more prevalent in our society.
The need to cooperate for our common survival will become paramount!
Just imagine … once people know their neighbors at street level, and that may need be only to the left of them or the right and across the road and behind the back fence, they can share and even barter food or services if things get tough.
But think about tying in all these below levels of community into one dynamic synergistic whole, around Neighbourhood Support.
Organic Gardening and Permaculture
Bartering, Time Banks and Green dollars
Holistic and Alternative Healers and Natural Therapists. (There are 9,000 registered here in NZ with a population of 4 million people.)
Home Birthers and Midwifery.
Home Schoolers who teach their children from home.
Occupy NZ. There will be lessons that we can learn from here too.
And quite possibly the glue to pull these various threads together could be:
http://www.OOOOby.org = Out of Our Own Back Yard - a NZ initiative
http://www.TransitionTowns.org.nz = Transition Towns - many groups over NZ are doing this. Look up Transition Towns globally. There are many.
The importance of connecting with our neighbour goes back millennia, to early tribes, the Bible and beyond. When we 'feel' the energy of group dynamics and community, inspiration and cooperation enthuse us to a higher level of being. This is where a level of Peace settles around us and inside of us.