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  • I-Witness
Published 12 September 2023
3-min Read

How the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme has evolved over the decades to keep our community safe and secure!

By: ASP Warren Liow and Ms Low Ee Ching

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) first launched the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme (NWS) in 1981, as part of its shift in focus towards community policing, and in response to the changing milieu of Singaporeans soon after Independence. By the late 1970s, about 70% of Singaporeans were living in high-rise flats in high-density housing estates. Recognising the challenge of having eyes on the ground at all times, the SPF introduced the NWS to encourage members of the public to look out for one another.

The NWS aimed to increase cohesion amongst residents of a neighbourhood, such that neighbours would be able to identify and report to the Police suspicious happenings in their neighbourhood. This would also ensure that residents looked out for one another’s family and property, with immediate neighbours forming informal watch groups.

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An NWS exercise held in Ah Hood Estate, circa 1983. PHOTO: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

To further enhance the effectiveness of the NWS, “Crime in Your Neighbourhood” newsletters were distributed to NWS members by Crime Prevention Officers in Land Divisions. These newsletters equipped NWS members with information on common crimes in their neighbourhoods, and how to counter them.

From Homes to Offices: Crime Prevention Committees
The expansion of the NWS and implementation of the Neighbourhood Police Post system in the 1980s served to deter crimes such as housebreaking. To extend a similar effect towards commercial buildings, the SPF’s Crime Prevention Department (CPD) then reached out to business owners, managers and tenants to form Crime Prevention Committees (CPCs) in 1983. Each CPC was tasked to organise crime prevention measures in their respective premises.

Watching Out for One Another: Neighbourhood Watch Groups
During the NWS implementation process, various organisations also played an important role in facilitating the involvement of residents. Among these, National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) cadets helped to generate 4,491 Neighbourhood Watch Groups (NWGs) in 1984. In recognition of these efforts, the NPCC cadets were presented with the Neighbourhood Watch Proficiency Badge at a special function at the Police Academy on 17 April 1984!

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Captain V, a mascot of the CPD, made his debut in 1985. The NWG display bus and Captain V made frequent visits to neighbourhoods and schools to encourage residents to partner the Police in combating crime. PHOTO: SPF

By 1986, more than 70,000 NWGs involving more than 280,000 households had been formed. The SPF also organised neighbourhood gatherings featuring mobile crime prevention displays, static exhibitions and talks to further share the importance of the NWS. Members of the public who’d assisted the Police in combating crime were also publicly recognised for their efforts.

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A member of the Fengshan Neighbourhood Resident Committee Watch Group educating residents on crime prevention tips, circa 1986. PHOTO: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

During the 1990s, the volunteer spirit continued to pick up pace. The NWS, later reorganised into Neighbourhood Watch Zones (NWZs) in 1997, was a success – more than 4,000 volunteers helped to safeguard over 800 NWZs!

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Volunteers at a community event in Pasir Panjang share information on crime prevention, circa 1991. PHOTO: SPF

Shared Interests: The Community Watch Scheme
This neighbourly spirit of mutual care and watchfulness has endured to the present day! In 2021, the NWZ scheme was incorporated into the Community Watch Scheme (CWS), together with other community-based watch groups like Riders on Watch and Vehicles on Watch. CWS is a move from a geography-bounded approach to an interest-based approach. The CWS is structured into five broad categories, with various interest groups being formed under each category.

You too can play a part in keeping the neighbourly spirit thriving, as well as safe and secure! Our Actions Count! Find out more about the CWS and how you can help to keep our country safe and secure here!

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