WATCH OUT: Neighbourhood Watch pioneer Bill Hackney of Metford.Huge residential growth in the city’s west, spiralling crime and inadequate police have pushed western suburbs residents to the brinkof wagingtheir own war on criminals.

Hunter Area Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator Bill Hackney and West Ward councillor Henry Meskauskas have joined forces to resurrect a Neighbourhood Watch program and will organise a public forum to gauge community interest.

Mr Hackney said he has been watching with interest social media groups which have been reporting on crime in the westand said it is time to act.

He saidAberglasslyn’s population has grown40 per cent since the 2007 census and along with that growth has come unprecedented crime.

InRutherford in last month there were: Ninebreak and enter offences, 34 reports ofmalicious damageincluding graffiti,50 thefts half of which were stealing frommotor vehicles and 13 assaults of which half were domestic violence related.

“There is a bit of a gang mentality in the Rutherford and Aberglasslyn area,crime is gathering momentum and people are becoming scared.

Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison who supports the launch of a new Neighbourhood Watch group has beenon a mission to obtain an additional 20 police officers for the Central Hunter Local Area Command.

She said localpolice have a huge workload with a high incidence of domestic violence and the state’s highest incidence of stolen motor vehicles.

“The population of Maitland grows by five new residents a day and we have one of the highest rates of domestic violence across the state which is a very labour intensive crime to work on,” Mrs Aitchison said.

“The police minister can’t tell us how much the actual strength of our command has risen in the six years since the government came to office.

“We need at least 20 more police on the ground right now to make a difference.

“Our cops are doing the same job as those in Newcastle with about 80 less officers.”

A date is yet to be fixedfor the forum to resurrect the watch group which folded about 15 years ago.

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