Prevent Crime: Starting a Neighborhood Watch

by Scott Grabel

Everyone wants to feel safe and secure in his or her homes and neighborhoods. One of the least costly and most effective ways to reduce neighborhood crime is to set up a neighborhood watch program. The programs are a good way to forge relationships between area residents, which help to reduce robberies and burglaries. Neighborhood programs also often improve relationships between communities and the police that serve them in addition to serving as a springboard for other community efforts. Research has proven that neighborhood watch programs dramatically decrease burglaries and other related offenses.

How to Start a Neighborhood Watch

Anyone can help to establish a neighborhood watch whether concerned residents, a community group, or one motivated individual. A few steps need to be taken to establish a neighborhood watch program.

  • A committee of community members should be organized to gauge interest in the program, and discuss needs and potential problems.
  • A local law enforcement agency or crime prevention organization should be contacted as they can often help in training neighborhood volunteers in reporting, security, and crime patterns.
  • Hold a meeting to inform neighbors and gauge their interest. This is a good time to establish the goals of the program and begin identifying issues that will need to be handled.
  • A main person should be selected as the coordinator and there should be block captains that are responsible for informing other members of the watch.
  • Once the watch is established, it is important to keep information up to date. This includes informing new residents and working to keep residents involved.
  • Some law enforcement and local government agencies are willing to put up neighborhood watch signs however this normally does not happen until at least half of the households in a community are enrolled in the program.

There are several components of a successful neighborhood watch program. Community meetings should be held on a regular basis. Depending on what the group feels is necessary these meetings are generally monthly or bi-monthly. A neighborhood watch also needs a citizen’s patrol. The patrol is made up of volunteers willing to drive or walk through a neighborhood to report crime to law enforcement. Communication is also essential for a successful neighborhood watch. Keeping neighbors up to date on issues is essential. Events such as talks or safety seminars (local police or even lawyers may be willing ot help with seminars) are also helpful in keeping the program going and encouraging new members to join.

Neighborhood Watch Member Responsibilities

Neighborhood watch members are essentially the eyes and ears of a neighborhood. Members are generally responsible for watching out for each other, getting to know neighbors, and learning to make their homes secure. Members are also responsible for reporting suspicious activities or potential crimes to law enforcement. Neighborhood watch members should be on the lookout for strangers exhibiting odd behavior, people yelling for help, someone looking in house or car windows, and other suspicious behaviors.

Watch members should not only be on the lookout for suspicious activities but should also report the incidents to law enforcement with as much detail as possible to help keep the community safe. Neighborhood watch programs are beneficial for many reasons and if the right steps are taken, it is easy to set up a successful program to keep communities and their residents safe.

More Information on Neighborhood Watch Programs