Martin Stilwell, Chairman of Woking NHW

Martin has been performing the MSA role in Surrey for 5 years. He started out by taking on the role in his home borough of Woking and building his skills up in using the Neighbourhood Alert system.

The Surrey and Sussex Police had defined their own version of the NA system by that time and called it InTheKnow. Police staff – officers, civilians and volunteers – started to use the system to replace an in-house one that Surrey Police had allowed to lapse. This meant that no existing data was carried over to InTheKnow and that was the first job the MSAs and borough NHW teams tackled, which required the existing membership to be persuaded to register on the new system.

As a result, most boroughs lost half their membership, at best. Since then, Surrey NHW has been on a continuing campaign to increase membership, with notable success in most boroughs.

The MSA role was seen to be a key one and Martin used his skills to create an MSA Guide and run training courses for new MSAs across the county. This training material has been used in Sussex, and the Guide has been widely used as a basis for other areas, including some London boroughs.

The borough MSA role is mainly one of sending Alerts out to the membership and, in the case of Woking, sending Alerts out on behalf of the neighbourhood Policing team as they lack the manpower and skills to currently to this themselves. New Watches/Schemes always need help to get set up and ensuring they are registered and mapped correctly is important.

Martin took over the role of Chairman of Woking NHW in 2018 and handed the borough MSA role to another committee member, who was a Police volunteer and already producing weekly crime reports. Martin moved up to take on the county MSA role and has access to all Surrey membership data. This role is one of establishing standards, consistency and policy on the storage and use of the membership data across Surrey NHW, very much in partnership with Sussex NHW. He remembers the stress of getting Surrey data (and Watch co-ordinators) GDPR-compliant in May 2018 – a thankless task but one that had to be done.

The county MSA role is one of constantly monitoring in the background, intersperse with helping to resolve issues, and he is one of the practitioners helping to test v4. He is joint chair of Surrey NHW and is likely to take the role over fully from January 2021 when the other joint chairmen steps down. He does not expect to relinquish the County MSA role.

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