POLICE chiefs have paid tribute to Neighbourhood Watch coordinators in Hampshire in helping to cut crime.

At the Winchester and East Hampshire coordinators meeting on Thursday (November 15), around 150 people packed into the venue at Perins School, Alresford. Margaret Filley, president of the Hampshire Neighbourhood Watch Association, said: “This is a very special opportunity for us all to come together and network, but also to communicate with our police commander colleagues.”

Assistant chief constable David Pryde of Hampshire Constabulary said: “I've never been to a neighbourhood watch event with a turnout this big.”

There are 796 'watches' in Winchester and East Hampshire, and 4,700 watches across the whole of the county. Chief inspector James Fulton, Winchester and East Hampshire District commander, said: “We have taken some huge steps forward in tackling crime and it's due in no small part to Margaret.”

He said that vehicle crime had dropped by 20% over the past year in Hampshire and acknowledged that advances in technology had played a part in that figure, but said much of it was due to the work of the Neighbourhood Watch.

Mr Fulton said: “It's been a real success story. Last year, 2010 to 2011, we saw a significant fall in crime. Violent crime was down 15 per cent last year.

“We have had some rises, too. Dwelling burglaries rose by 15 per cent in Winchester and East Hampshire. But we have had only one burglary each day on average, so it is not as if it's a big problem.”

He also urged the coordinators to continue their work and to take advantage of social media. He said: “We're completely reliant on the likes of yourselves feeding information in to us. We would be sitting in the dark without your help.”