The Basingstoke Canal is a safe place to visit and enjoy, however the actions of a minority mean that some extra steps need to be taken to safeguard the environment for everyone to enjoy.
On 12th April Surrey Police launched Canal Watch, a community initiative to tackle anti-social behaviour and following a number of indecent exposure offences and suspicious incidents which have been reported along the Basingstoke Canal towpath in Woking.
The initiative is the first of its kind in the south of England and has been launched in collaboration with Woking Borough Council, Neighbourhood Watch, Basingstoke Canal Authority and the Basingstoke Canal Society. The initiative will see volunteers patrol the towpath and report any suspicious incidents, anti-social behaviour, or degradation to the towpath, to the police or relevant authority.
Volunteers will be wearing highly visible marked tabards and will be there throughout the week to make sure those using the towpath feel as safe as possible. However, volunteers will not be able to take reports of incidents from members of the public and these will need to be reported to the relevant authority as normal.
The volunteers will be fully supported by the local neighbourhood policing team to deal with any concerns or issues they may have.
Woking Borough Commander, Inspector Dave Bentley, said: “Everybody should feel safe while out and about in Woking and these incidents are a serious concern to us and to the local community. We have also released a number of appeals for information on social media and to local media outlets, which have resulted in some important information coming to light.
We are working hard to identify the suspects who are committing these offences and we are hopeful that the launch of Canal Watch will not only deter the suspects from re-offending, but also help us to identify them.
We are really pleased to be partnering with Woking Borough Council, Neighbourhood Watch, Basingstoke Canal Authority and the Basingstoke Canal Society and would like to thank all of the volunteers for their time and effort in helping make Woking a safer place to live and be in.”
Woking Borough Council’s Community Safety Manager, Camilla Edmiston, said: “We’re all aware of how important our outdoor spaces are and during the pandemic the canal towpaths have become much busier. We want people to feel safe and by working together, we can maintain people’s confidence and enjoyment of this popular attraction.”
Ian Moore from Woking and a long-time member of the Basingstoke Canal Society, said Canal Watch was really important for the local community.
He said: “I’ve been involved with helping to maintain and look after the canal, and as a long-time member of the Canal Society I’m delighted to be involved in this initiative. The canal corridor has, especially over the past year, become a welcoming environment for many people to walk, cycle and be with nature on. This brilliant collaborative effort by the community, will help to ensure that the canal remains this way for all to enjoy.”
The initiative will be running an information stand on the Basingstoke Canal towpath on 12 April, where members of the public will be able to ask officers any questions or raise any concerns.
Please continue to report any suspicious behaviour or incidents to the police via:
Webchat on their website surrey.police.uk
Calling them on 101
If you do not wish to leave your name, please call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.