A VALUABLE crime prevention scheme bringing police and the community together turns 35 today.

Neighbourhood Watch in West Yorkshire first came to the county on Monday, July 13, back in 1985.

Its main principal is to bring together communities in order to tackle crime and other issues in that area - this then can feed into what the force itself focuses on in specific neighbourhoods.

West Yorkshire Police introduced the scheme after it first reached the shores of the UK back in 1982.

Police Officers visiting Chicago USA saw the benefits that such schemes were having in the community and decided to pilot it in the UK.

The first scheme was launched in Mollington, Cheshire and after a successful trial was expanded throughout the country.

Since then, thousands of active Neighbourhood Watches have cropped up across the country, including plenty in Bradford.

The Apperley Bridge Neighbourhood Watch was set-up three years ago by Angela Riches.

It was in response to a sudden increase in criminal activity around the Marina, Leeds-Liverpool Canal and new housing developments in the area.

She said: "The scheme has been brilliant for the area of Apperley Bridge.

"We started with regular meetings, but it soon developed into an online group due to the vastly increasing number of members moving into the new housing in the area."

The group in question is on social media website, Facebook.

It currently has 586 members and is set to private, so only people from the area can join.

Mrs Riches said: "The group is very active and as many of us have Ring doorbells and security cameras.

"Most activity is caught on camera and given to the police.

"The activity has been noticeably less over the last 12 months.

"I do think that the awareness we create with signs and cameras etc. are a deterrent."

The Apperley Bridge Neighbourhood Watch has even expanded its horizons beyond simply tackling crime.

Mrs Riches said: "We have also used the group in times of need for the old and vulnerable - such as in bad winter weather and lockdown, making sure the more vulnerable in the area are looked after."

The Buttershaw Neighbourhood Watch group was also set-up back in 2017.

It's main aim was to encourage people to report things after issues such as anti-social behaviour, speeding, drug dealing and inconsiderate parking near schools became prominent.

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson has said a big thank you to everyone involved in schemes across the county over the years.

He added: “Reaching 35 years is a fantastic milestone for Neighbourhood Watch in West Yorkshire.

“I have personally met many Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators and groups in my time and I am always moved by their passion, dedication and community spirit.

"Their actions really do help to keep us all safe and they are an important link between the police and our communities.

“During the unprecedented fallout of COVID-19, I know that Neighbourhood Watch has taken on an even greater role, especially for those people who’ve found themselves isolated from friends and family due to lockdown restrictions.

"I know West Yorkshire Police very much appreciate and welcome the work of Neighbourhood Watches and we are currently looking at what extra support we can offer to recognise some of issues we can address to help make their life a little easier.

"I will be looking to engage with our NHWs very soon regarding more ways to help support and develop them.

“I have no doubt that NHW will continue to grow and make a real difference in our communities so here’s to 35 years and many many more, thank you."