The New Neighbourhood Watch


JCNN recently sat down with the creators of the Townsville Crime Alerts & Discussions Facebook group to find out more about the growing public forum.

OPEN FORUM: The Facebook page set up by the Parkinsons to address crime in Townsville

By Lori Turner

Condon residents Torhild and Peter Parkinson were worried about the amount of crime in their suburb, so they decided to take action by creating a Facebook group to warn and inform the local community.

It wasn’t until Torhild started talking to other members of the community that she realised other people were affected by crime too.

“You’d know by the posts that you see on the page that everyday people are having a problem,” Torhild said.

“We had stolen cars being dumped down the side of our property, so it really brought home to us what a problem it was.”

The Facebook group was created three months ago as a way of allowing members of the community to discuss and warn each other of crimes that had taken place in their suburbs.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: A sample post on Torhild’s FB site

The group now has more than 6000 members.

Torhild’s husband Peter described the group as a “modern-day neighbourhood watch” but said it takes a fair amount of work behind the scenes to keep it operational.

Torhild and Peter are two out of six administrators constantly checking the group’s comments.

“We have what we call ‘admin chat’ – it’s pretty much going all the time,” Torhild said.

“A lot of people don’t realise that there is a lot of moderation that has to be done because if you don’t, it just gets out of hand.”

The ‘admin chat’ contains ongoing conversations between the six administrators about posts or comments that appear to contain controversial or sensitive topics and whether action should be taken to remove these posts or leave them on the page for discussion.

Torhild and Peter said they were hoping for further collaboration with the police.

“The old neighbourhood watch system has been around for 100 years and they’re comfortable with that,” Torhild said.

“Now we just have to try and get them comfortable with us.”

The administrators of the Facebook group are in regular contact with the police, usually enquiring about stolen car spottings.

While Torhild and Peter created the group to protect their neighbourhood, participation is now spreading to other suburbs of Townsville.

Torhild said it was satisfying to be part of something that was helping people in the community.

“I feel the page not only alerts people to what is going on around them but also gives them a chance to talk to others who have been in the same situation,” she said.

“I get a huge amount of personal satisfaction knowing that I am actually helping to try and do something about the situation in our community.”

Torhild said it was important for everyone to make sure their security was up-to-scratch to avoid robberies.

“Look at your security and get to know your neighbours – these are two things that will help you,” she said.

“The best advice I can give is make sure any screen doors in your home are key locked, even when you are home.

“Thieves have been very brazen and will sneak in your back door while you are watching TV or busy in another room.”