Hundreds of residents respond within seconds to WhatsApp to fight crime in affluent Walsall region

Recently, when a councilor’s house was raided, more than 100 neighbors rushed to help the family. It’s thanks to a phone app group with nearly 1,000 members, with people flocking to events in areas within seconds. Gurdeep Thandi spoke to the Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch team about their efforts to tackle criminals who targeted their homes.

“We are not replacing the police; We are the eyes and ears for our community.”

Hundreds of eagle-eyed people in the Walsall area targeted by car thieves and thieves have come together via a phone app to reduce crime.

thieves used to attack the rich park hall area They steal cars and valuables on a daily basis and from people’s homes, causing trouble to the residents.

but that all changed when Park Hall Neighborhood View WhatsApp The group was set up to enable hundreds of people to be sent red alerts as soon as a crime was reported.

Read more: ‘Heartbreaking’ Walsall councilor’s house vandalized after precious Indian wedding gold stolen

Members are often on the scene within seconds of flashing a message on their phones to reassure fellow residents as well as collect important information for the police.

The group made national headlines in May 2018, when they helped chase and catch a suspected thief, as well as block a street exit because messages tracked the criminal’s movements.

Earlier this month, around 100 members arrived to support Councilor Waheed Rasab after attackers broke into his home and took away thousands of pounds of jewelery and cash.

The service was founded by Amit Verma and Bally Sohal, who are now senior members of Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch. Both said that their families have been targeted in the past and they want to do something for it.

(LR) Bally Sohal of Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch, Waheed Rasab, Councilors of Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch, Amit Verma.
(LR) Bally Sohal of Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch, Waheed Rasab, Councilors of Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch, Amit Verma.

In four years, the WhatsApp group has attracted over 980 members and 64 have participated in Street Watch.

Mr Verma, chairman of Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch, said: “My family background is that we are jewelers so we have always been a target, but then we realized there were a lot of residents who were targets and it was a matter of concern. .

“At the time we thought we needed to open the group because when the burglary was happening, we were too late.

“So for people to come to their aid, it will take an hour or two. But now we have found a way to communicate within seconds.

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“Sometimes, we are even in a situation where we get information because criminals have just entered, so it all started.

“It’s one of the richest areas here and naturally you’ve got more expensive new cars here and it was a thieves’ paradise. They’ll come in numbers.

“When incidents happen now, we can get a lot of residents to the scene within two minutes to provide support and reassurance.”

Mr Sohal said an incident where his nephew was attacked by a gang of baseball bat-wielding thugs sparked his desire to be involved.

He said: “Me and a few others went to meet the constable at that time and he honestly said he didn’t have police numbers. But he understood us.

“So we thought we had to do something about it. We can either let it happen or be part of the solution.”

“From that, Amit and I became members of the Park Hall Neighborhood Watch. We sat in the Park Hall Area Neighborhood Watch Committee meeting thinking we were going to tell them about our WhatsApp group but suddenly we were voted as committee members!

“From that, we have naturally grown. Each WhatsApp group can now have a maximum of 256 people, as we have over 1,000 members and administrators, we have six groups among which information is being circulated.

“They are run by an admin team of volunteers who work very well 24-7, 365 days a year. They are watching that group for alerts of suspicious activity. This gives assurance to the society.

The attackers entered the Walsal house of Councilor Waheed Rasab and attacked.
The attackers entered the Walsal house of Councilor Waheed Rasab and attacked.

“It’s about awareness, reassurance and safety advice for people to keep themselves safe. On top of that we have a Street Watch program that we run.

“Where earlier alarms sounded and people were not disturbed, people are now watching and going out. We have red, amber, green status for warnings depending on the level of occurrence.

“We are not replacing the police, we are the eye and ear for our community. We have a wonderful relationship with the police and we give them real time information. This saves them time because once we give them valuable information they don’t need to knock on the door.

“By being alert and having visibility, if a thief is in the area, they may be wondering ‘what’s going on?’ If people turn on their lights and then the whole street lights up, the thief will know that something is happening.

The success of WhatsApp Groups has resulted in a significant drop in incidents compared to the pre-2017 events.

Mr Sohal said: “We don’t know how many thefts have been stopped.

“Every day, when we first set up WhatsApp our phones were constantly going off – we’d have a theft, a car theft, every single day and night. Something was going on in the estate.

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“But it has been months now, nothing is happening. It’s come down.”

Mr. Sohal said the community members have also worked on other activities such as garbage collection and setting up speed watch programs to improve the area.

He added: “Our mission statement is ‘to build a strong, safe and caring community’.”

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