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Streetwatchers reclaim the streets of Weyhe

Change management

?Streetwatchers? are volunteers aged between 18-60 years who are already active as youth workers in sports and arts clubs in the local area. Consequently, they already personally know many young people making them more approachable and meaning they are already able to talk easily and openly. Important, too, is that the streetwatchers can make sensible and realistic suggestions about other things that the young people can do to amuse themselves. Most importantly, the streetwatchers treat young people as equals, not ‘problems’.

The local council funds and manages the project. It also provides streetwatchers with a vehicle and a special outfit to makes them immediately recognisable. The streetwatchers also have a first aid kit, broom, shovel, bin bags and a mobile phone. They were first paid a small fee of 8 Euro for the expenses related to their activities (e.g. gas, clothing). Later the local council switched to a less bureaucratic compensation scheme and now pays every streetwatcher a lump-sum fee of 30 Euro per night in duty. And these nights can be very long. For example, when the local fair is on streetwatchers may be out on the streets from 9 PM to 4 AM. As one of the streetwatchers suggested "when you have been out the whole night and you are in your fifties you feel it the next day. But you also feel good about it because you know you were needed".      

Very importantly, the streetwatchers are considered as 'volunteer employees' of the local council in order to extend the insurance benefitting council staff to the volunteers.

When the scheme was started in 2007, Marcus Grosser, the CEO of the local youth association Pro-Youth and Günther Meyer, the head of Weyhe council youth services, got together and approached some local people who they thought had the right kind of experience and skills to act as streetwatchers - mainly local people who had already undertaken a training course run by Pro-Youth on how to work with young people. They were surprised – but delighted – that almost all 30 course participants gave a positive response. Most of these people were aged 21-60, from a wide range of backgrounds, such as housewives, car mechanics, tradesmen and insurance sales staff.

The volunteers were given special training over one weekend. The police briefed them for two hours on their rights and duties as streetwatchers, e.g. on issues such as arrests, personal searches, de-escalation of confrontational situations and how young people need to protect themselves, e.g. from alcohol abuse or pressures to start using drugs. Other sessions focussed on communication methods and behaviour issues, such as sexual health and behaviour. The local council made sure that the streetwatchers were properly insured, which was particularly important, given the risks involved in such a role.

Streetwatchers always work in teams of three – at least one male, at least one female and at least one elderly person. They are typically on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights, holidays and during local events. (However, they have a winter break from November to March). They assemble at the police station, where their equipment is stored.

After every shift,  the streetwatcher team writes a brief report on what happened during the night, without mentioning any names. This is circulated to all streetwatchers. When a major incident has happened, the police also get a copy of the report. In addition, the streetwatchers have a monthly meeting with the police to discuss recurring anti-social behaviour problems.

The monthly meeting is also used to plan the duty of the streetwatchers of the next month. This allows Herr Grosser to accomodate individual needs. For example, two streetwatchers could not be very active for one year but were keen to continue to be involved in  the scheme and hoping to be able to do more next year. Others wished to do more than two week-ends per months. It is remarkable that the team of streetwatchers manages to cover all week-ends even when some of colleagues get sick or drop out for other unforeseen reasons. 

About this case study
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Günther Meyer


Marcus Grosser


Günther Meyer and Marcus Grosser wrote this case study for Governance International in October 2011. The case study was updated in October 2014.

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