THE BIG INTERVIEW: More help needed to watch over us

This Is Wiltshire: Anita Basevi, a Neighbourhood Watch street co-ordinator, who wants more volunteers to get involved Buy this photo Anita Basevi, a Neighbourhood Watch street co-ordinator, who wants more volunteers to get involved

FOR Anita Basevi, Neighbourhood Watch taps into a lifelong belief in the shared strength of community.

“If I go back to my childhood, we were churchgoers, and life revolved around that family within the church,” she said.

“Therefore I’ve grown up with a feeling of belonging and people caring for each other, not in a ‘keep you close’ kind of way, but if something went wrong they would be there to support you through those hard times.

“We lost my younger brother when I was 18 and everybody pulled together around us, and that was really supportive.”

Anita grew up in rural Hampshire. Her father made watches and clocks and her mother worked in a shop. Her other brother is an air conditioning engineer.

At various times Anita has worked at a mushroom farm, a pottery, a restaurant, a hard disc repair company and for a toy firm as a buyer. She spent seven years at Nationwide before starting her own business, Eco-Marketplace (eco-marketplace.co.uk) five years ago.

She sells a range of products with one thing in common: “I look for products made of recycled materials that you wouldn’t realise were recycled. For example, I do a range of clocks that are made from recycled plant pots, and you look at them and they look like slate.”

The business sources and sells everything from tableware to garden equipment, and Anita has raised money for causes as diverse as Cancer Research to Riding for the Disabled.

She’s been in the Swindon area since the age of 21, when she moved to be with a partner and found another type of community to be part of. She decided to stay after meeting her future husband, a Liddington man.

She said: “When I moved to Old Town, the community that I found there was more from a social life perspective.

“I was 21 and out having a good time, and I found my community through the local pub.

“We used to do things together. There were any number of single people there and we would all get together and have Christmas Day together, have barbecues in the summer, take it in turns to have Sunday lunch – things like that.

“Then when we moved to Wanborough in 2000 I went on the committee for the playgroup. I didn’t know anybody who lived here so I thought, through my child, I’d get to know a few people and that was good.

“Then my husband got involved with the Wanborough show. He’s on the committee – has been for years.

“We’ve met a lot of people through that event.

“Then once my son moved on to the school, I didn’t want to get too involved with the school because I was working full-time again and struggling a little bit with time during the day, but I opted to go on to the parish council.”

Then, about seven years ago, the family home was burgled.

“It was one person and he did, I think, 18 burglaries over the course of three months, all around the village.

“He was caught and he did go to jail, but it was at that point that the Neighbourhood Watch was really kicked off again.

“I say ‘again’ because there were already schemes around the village but it had become dormant.

“We all had a meeting down at the school and people volunteered to co-ordinate for their parts of their streets, and that was when it kicked off again. It’s gradually faded away to nothing, which is a real shame.

“We had a number of changes of police co-ordinator and then they didn’t have a co-ordinator at all for quite some time.”

Then the civilian village co-ordinator stepped aside to become more involved with the parish plan.

The decline in activity prompted Anita’s appeal for more volunteers. She would also like to see a more dynamic approach by the police.

“It’s almost as if somebody within the police force has been tasked with managing the Neighbourhood Watch scheme but it’s a tag-on to their job. You know when you work in a corporate environment and have to produce a report every month but nobody reads it? It’s almost like that.”

The problem is not just with the authorities according to Anita, but also with the pace of life. Having said that, she stresses that volunteering need not be backbreaking work.

“All I do for Neighbourhood Watch at this point in time is receive a message on my email and press a button to forward it on, print off a copy and pop it through the door of a lady who doesn’t have a computer.

“It’s watching out for each other, not just from a policing perspective but making sure we’re all alright.

“If you want to volunteer, volunteer for something you enjoy, because then it doesn’t become a chore – it becomes part of your social life.

“It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. As a volunteer you give as much time as you’re prepared to give, whether that be one day a year, one day a month or one day a week.

“It’s about not letting life happen to you, but actually having an influence on what life is about.”

Further information about Neighbourhood Watch can be found at ourwatch.org.uk.

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