Protecting Our Neighbourhood- Part 2

It took four weeks to organize. Leaflets were printed up and distributed around the estate and left in local shops. Terry, the landlord of the local pub, The Duke of Dorset, wholeheartedly agreed for them to use the upstairs room above the bar as a meeting place. It hadn’t been used since the local chapter of the Socialist Worker’s Party stopped meeting there, jumping ship for a more trendy upmarket pub in Aldgate. Philip and his friends were ready to hold the first official meeting of the Neighbourhood Watch for the Wilmer and Sandall Estates. They simply hoped that people were going to show up for it.

At first, it appeared that Philip’s fears were going to be right. With only fifteen minutes before the planned meeting was supposed to start, only one person had turned up. Then, from seemingly out of nowhere and with less than ten minutes to go, a loud, familiar voice boomed, “Hey! Let’s get this thing started.”

Phil, Troy and Gurpreet knew the voice instantly. It belonged to their larger than life friend Christian. Bulldozing his way through the door, the six foot three, nineteen and a half stone Nigerian bounded over and with an equally huge, jovial smile announced, “I brought some people along.” Sure enough, trailing behind their large friend were six men and two women of all different races and economic groups. Without any prompting, the eight new arrivals dutifully took their seats.

After seeing his entourage take their seats, Christian declared, “When I read that leaflet you put through my letterbox, I knew I had to come and see this for myself. With another loud laugh, he produced the leaflet and remarked, “It reads like one of those American adverts for lawyers.”

Have you or someone you know been the victim of a crime?

Have the police let you down?

Are you concerned about the crime in your neighbourhood?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should come to our meeting on Wednesday, September 23, at 7:30 pm at the Duke of Dorset.

Together, we can make our streets safe again.

Only one more person came in to the meeting room before Philip started the meeting. He had hoped more would have come but he was certainly glad it wasn’t less. Fumbling his note cards and clearing his throat several times, obviously nervous, he began, “Thank you all for coming. You are here because like me, you are concerned about all the crime happening around our estates. Crime seems to be rampant with houses and flats being burgled at will. Some of you have been victims yourselves and the police don’t seem to be bothered. Just last month, Gurpreet here,” pointing to his friend, “had his flat broken into and his stuff stolen. Worse, it was in broad daylight but nobody saw or heard anything.”

Taking his cue, Gurpreet, sitting in the front row, stood up and faced the audience. “It’s like Philip said,” he reiterated. “I came home from work in the afternoon and saw my front door wide open. I know I locked it before I left in the morning but when I went in, I found my flat had been ransacked and my computer and telly gone. I turned white.” This brought some chuckles from those in attendance and another loud laugh from Christian.

Anyway, I phoned the police but they told me they couldn’t send anyone around to see me for two day. And when they did come, the two cops didn’t seem at all optimistic that they would catch the thieves or that I would get my things back.”

Sensing Gurpreet had the audience’s sympathy, Philip took over from his Indian friend. “As you can see, the police aren’t going to be of much help. Therefore, we have to do something ourselves. What I am suggesting is that we set up an active neighbourhood patrol. We take it in turns to patrol our estates and the surrounding area. If we witness a crime, we phone the police. Now, they probably won’t come so what we can do is to photograph and document any evidence and hand it over to them.”

Would we ever confront the criminals?” asked a skinny white man with glasses.

Phil shook his head, “No, we are not vigilantes. We observe and make notes. Hopefully, our presence on the street will serve as a deterrent. If you are here because you think it will be a chance to go out and duff people up, then you are in the wrong place.”

He paused for a moment, expecting a few disappointed people to leave. He stared down his audience with a feigned assertiveness while struggling to contain the bile of dread raging in his stomach. However, no one left. Not wanting to bore his audience with more mind-numbing details, Phil simply concluded, “If you are interested in protecting your neighbourhood, leave your details with Troy,” indicating his friend sitting at a table nearby. “If you do sign up, then come down to the bar cause the first round is on us.” Whether it was the offer of a free drink or the ten attendees were genuinely interested in serving their community, everyone at the meeting signed up.

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