THURSDAY, MAY 12: People in violence-hit Pembroke united tonight in a bid to claim back their communities from criminals.

Around 50 people attended a meeting aimed at setting up neighbourhood watch schemes in some of the areas worst hit by violence.

And they heard that similar schemes elsewhere on the island have helped cut down on crime and fostered community spirit.

PC Martin Charles, one of the Central Community Action Team officers for Pembroke, said: “This is an area with a lot of issues and we’re trying to get the community involved in dealing with them.

“We want to focus on bringing some guardianship to the community and tackling crime through neighbourhood watches.

“This all ties in to forcing crime out of communities and changing the environment so criminals don’t feel welcome and they don’t feel safe.

"We are sensitising the community to specific trends – what to look out for and techniques they can use to stop crime.

“We also want them to contact Crime Stoppers or police if they see any evidence of crime or suspicious behaviour.”

PC Charles added: “I’m very impressed by the turnout – it’s an extremely hopeful sign and we hope we can move on from here to make our neighbourhoods safer.”

Earlier, the meeting heard from PC Krishna Singh, who has experience of setting up neighbourhood watches on his Paget beat.

He said the groups elsewhere had worked with BELCO, Keep Bermuda Beautiful and the parish councils among other organisations to improve their areas with better street lighting.

He added: “Neighbourhood watches have been formed in many parts of the world. Where they have been formed, they’ve been proved to be successful and crime has been reduced.

“It’s not perfect, but crime’s gone down and the quality of life has risen to a better standard.”

He continued: “They can form gangs, but we can form gangs too. A good gang – one for positive change.”

Officers met residents from the St Monica’s Road, Glebe Road and Friswell’s Hill areas with a view to setting up neighbourhood watches in all three.

Doreen Blee, who is part of a Paget neighbourhood watch, said since her watch formed in 2006, it had cut crime, negotiated with BELCO for improved street lighting, and got a new sidewalk and pedestrian crossing near Paget gas station.

She added it had also helped neighbours meet and fostered a good community spirit.

Mrs Blee said: “You can do so much with a neighbourhood watch – it’s not just about crime. Crime is the main purpose, but it can be so much more than that.”

Pembroke East Central MP Michael Weeks and National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief also attended the meeting at the Victor Scott Primary School, where Kimwandae Walker was gunned down in front of his children on the school field on Good Friday last year.

Mr Weeks said: “People have asked for lights and I have done that and CCTV is going to come. But the most important thing is neighbours looking out for each other.

“What I find heartening to see here is that there are young and old, male and female, black and white.

“We’re finally coming together as a community and looking out for each other and for the betterment of our community.”

Former top police officer Mr Perinchief added: “This is a good place to start neighbourhood watches and it sends a clear message that communities are fighting back.”