Do You Trust Your Neighbours?

New research suggests millions of us don't

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Traditional neighbourhood values of shared interests amid like-minded people could be in decline according to new research. More than one quarter (27%) of us say we “do not trust” our neighbours and most of us feel we neither have a lot in common with (59%) nor share the same values (44%) as them.

Those are the key findings of a new study into British neighbourhoods from Legal & General.

The 'Next Door Strangers' report also found that the majority of British residents don’t know their neighbours’ names and wouldn’t recognise them if they passed them in the street (70%). According to the research, on average, we would only immediately recognise just over one in three (37%) of the people from our street.

British neighbourhoods are divided on values and sense of community and responsibility:

· More than a third (35%) of us don’t believe that we should have any responsibility for the safety or security of our neighbourhoods

· Nearly half (44%) don’t accept any responsibility for the safety or security of a neighbours’ property

· One in four (25%) of us admit we’d do nothing if we saw someone hanging around our neighbours’ home suspiciously, either out of fear, embarrassment or indifference

· The majority (61%) never socialise with their neighbours, not even occasionally

· Half of us (50%) do not even enjoy “spending time with” our neighbours.

In contrast to the traditional view of neighbourly duties, 42% of us would not trust our neighbours with our homes when we are not there and over one in three,(36%) when we are on holiday. 78% of respondents said they do not share keys with their neighbours.

Instead, it seems some of the values of neighbourliness have shifted online. Many of us are now more ‘neighbourly’ with people on social networks than with those in our street: 34% of social networkers are ‘friends’ with or ‘follow’ people we’ve never met before on Facebook or Twitter but fewer than one in five (19%) are online friends with a neighbour. Only 8% have bothered to check if a neighbour is on a social network site.

Gary Pickering, sales and marketing director at Legal & General’s general insurance business, said:

“People often think of neighbourhoods as places where similar types of people congregate, but our research suggests that the idea of ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘community’ has subtly changed over recent years.

'' People are choosing to socialise more online, for example. Changing employment patterns have led to some people living away from the home, in areas where they do not necessarily have ‘roots’, for part of the week or a sustained period of time. In some areas of the country, one in four homes is a second home. We read that the traditional village is in decline, with many campaigns to save them. These are all example factors that may have led to a decline in the traditional idea of ‘neighbourliness’.

Gary continued: “What’s fascinating is the impact of this on security in a neighbourhood. Our findings indicate that people feel less responsibility for looking out for suspicious activity in their street, which, along with taking practical security measures, is one of the best ways of discouraging burglars.

''We’d encourage people to get to know their neighbours better and keep an eye out for one another – it’s the cheapest way of keeping your home safe. If neighbourliness is less prevalent, there is more onus on the home owner to make sure they are security conscious and are taking sensible steps to protect their home.”

August 16 2010