Watchful eye sees a fall in crime

The latest official crime figures have revealed a potential link between a fall in crime and OWL [Online Watch Link], according to Direct Path Solutions, developers of the eGovernment National Award-winning communications system that allows the police to communicate directly with the public.

Aug 20, 2009
By Paul Jacques
Deputy Chief Constable Alex Franklin-Smith

The latest official crime figures have revealed a potential link between a fall in crime and OWL [Online Watch Link], according to Direct Path Solutions, developers of the eGovernment National Award-winning communications system that allows the police to communicate directly with the public.
OWL is in operation across all of Staffordshire and Hertfordshire, where both counties have seen a fall in overall crime of over five per cent compared to the same period last year.
Company director Gary Fenton admits that this alone is not a statistical indicator, however, he believes a compelling case study comes from North Wales where OWL is used in just one of its districts.
Flintshire is the only district in North Wales to have seen an overall reduction in crime. All other districts have had a significant increase of up to 18.6 per cent. Mr Fenton said the real reasons may be beyond statistics alone, but OWL is the only significant initiative in the last year that separates them. OWL is operated in Flintshire by Flintshire Neighbourhood Watch, headed by Denise Edwards.
“Claims have never been made that OWL will reduce crime, but the case study in North Wales, where all districts operate under the same police force, is beyond coincidence,” said Mr Fenton. “It indicates that OWL, providing enhanced communications to the public, has a compelling role to play alongside good policing.”
A survey in January run by Flintshire Neighbourhood Watch revealed a higher than expected positive reaction from the public when asked about OWL, including a response from Farm Watch (representing 70 people) describing OWL’s communications as “very helpful”.
OWL provides both interactive management and communications for watch schemes, including Neighbourhood Watch, Pub Watch, Shop Watch, School Watch, Business Watch and dozens of other community and group-based initiatives.
OWL allows the public to receive timely, localised messages from the police informing them of crimes and scams in their area via a format of their choice, including email, phone, fax and text message. OWL also allows members to log onto its website to access additional information about crime, statistics and valuable local information.
Currently, over 12,000 watches around the UK are managed using OWL, with 200,000 messages sent each month.
OWL won the ‘Innovation in Local Strategy’ category at this year’s eGovernment National Awards in January.
OWL allows Neighbourhood Watch to manage itself via the Internet and does not rely on the police to micro-manage watches. Coordinators can even use OWL to send messages directly to their members, wards or whole villages.
•Source of data: Crime figures quoted compare overall crime rates from the period April-June 2009 to the same period in 2008.
•OWL is available for participating counties and police forces at www.owl.co.uk. For further information email info@directpath.co.uk

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