PM recognises success of OWL system

Prime Minister David Cameron has awarded Hertfordshire’s Online Watch Link (OWL) system a Big Society Award.

Feb 7, 2013
By Paul Jacques

Prime Minister David Cameron has awarded Hertfordshire’s Online Watch Link (OWL) system a Big Society Award.

The scheme, that keeps residents and Neighbourhood Watch members updated with police news and appeals, was nominated for the award after it was showcased to MPs.

The OWL system, which has been running since 2006, was developed by Neighbourhood Watch member and Hertfordshire resident Gary Fenton. It has already won several prestigious awards and has over 90,000 members signed up in Hertfordshire. Neighbourhood Watch members and residents receive emails, voicemails, text messages or even faxes if they wish, giving them the latest news, crime-prevention advice and events from Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Hertfordshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) David Lloyd said: “I am delighted that this innovative crime-fighting tool has been recognised with a prestigious and much-deserved national award. Its inventor, Gary Fenton, is a Neighbourhood Watch member himself and is an excellent representative of one of our many ‘active citizens’ in Hertfordshire – people who are making an incredible contribution to keeping the county such a safe place.

“I want to encourage more involvement by local people and more innovations like OWL. My ‘Active Citizens’ agenda seeks to expand Hertfordshire’s thriving Special Constabulary, as well as provide more volunteering opportunities for those who do not want to don a uniform – Neighbourhood Watch, supported by OWL, being a perfect example.

“Through its multi-media capability, OWL has enabled Watch schemes and police across the county to share information faster and more efficiently while, at the same time, not leaving behind residents who are not yet hooked into the new internet world.”

Mr Fenton said: “We couldn’t have got to this point if it wasn’t for the chiefs who got behind OWL, or the continuous work of their support staff and neighbourhood policing teams, or the thousands of valued coordinators. This is a massive thumbs up for everyone who uses OWL in any capacity.

Inspector Paul Lawrence, of the constabulary’s Crime Reduction Unit, said: “Crime has been coming down over the past few years and it is through innovative schemes like OWL that members of the public are helping to combat crime and work with the police to keep their neighbourhoods safe.”

Keith Batchelor, chair of Herts Watch, added that it was a thoroughly deserved award for a system that is the envy of Neighbourhood Watches and police forces elsewhere: “It saves Neighbourhood Watch in Hertfordshire a fortune as the volunteers can send out newsletters free of charge and avoid the costs of copying and postage.”

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