How to Start a Neighborhood Watch
Everyone wants to live in a safe, friendly place. We should feel secure and comfortable on our evening stroll, early morning run, or while we sleep the night away. But great neighborhoods need the people who live there to pitch in and create this kind of safe environment. Get your friends and neighbors excited about protecting your homes and each other with a Neighborhood Watch!
How it Began
The National Neighborhood Watch program was launched in 1972 with funding by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Not only does a neighborhood watch allow residents to help in the fight against crime, it is also an opportunity for communities to bond through service.
What Is a Neighborhood Watch Program?
A neighborhood or community watch is an effective ways to prevent crime within your immediate area. A Neighborhood Watch unites those who live close together with law enforcement officials in an effort to deter criminal activity. This improves the safety of your community for the people who live in them. The program relies on neighbor participation to monitor your area on a round-the-clock basis. When questionable activity is observed, local law enforcement is contacted.
Benefits of a Neighborhood Watch
Spreads awareness. Neighborhood Watch programs teach you about recent criminal activity in your area and give you the knowledge, instructions and ability to discern and report crimes.
Increases surveillance. Neighborhood Watch programs are the extra eyes and ears to report criminal activity.
Tips off cops. Members of a Neighborhood Watch look for suspicious activity, call 911 and spread the word about incidents or crimes. It encourages neighbors to work together and look out for one another.
Sends a message to criminals. If a criminal sees Neighborhood Watch signs and spots residents patrolling every night (maybe even with dogs), they won’t feel welcome. Criminals look for opportunity. If they see a potential for getting caught easily, they will move on.
Encourages community pride/involvement. A Neighborhood Watch program helps you consider the whole neighborhood as you would your own property, which translates to greater vigilance.
Great for home resale value. Let’s be honest, if you are looking to purchase a new home (especially if you have children), a Neighborhood Watch group is plus! It shows a potential buyer that the neighborhood is safe and the people who live there a good citizens.
How to start a Neighborhood Watch in your area
Get people interested. Put the word out amongst your neighbors to see if anyone would be willing to participate. Simple flyers in mailboxes is a great start. Participation is crucial to a good Neighborhood Watch. Work as a small group taking turns watching the streets, or get enough people to have a block captain. See if people would be willing to attend meetings, help with special events and/or notify neighbors about crimes or suspicious.
Partner with police. To start an official Neighborhood Watch, you have to team up with local law enforcement. Why? Because the police will listen to concerns, inform you about crime statistics and specific problems in your area and help you get training.
Hold a meeting. Set a date to meet with interested neighbors and/or local police officers. Identify your neighborhood’s top three concerns and create a plan for addressing those. Use a sign-in sheet to get names, emails and phone numbers. You can register your group for free with National Neighborhood Watch.
Get training. Work with law enforcement to get trained on what type of activity to watch for and how to make homes more secure. The National Neighborhood Watch offers self-paced training online. And some police departments will send officers to do home security assessments for interested homeowners. Training will also keep you safe if a situation should arise where you come face-to-face with a potential criminal in action.
Map it out. Figure out who lives where and which houses are vacant. Team members should have a map of your neighborhood. Provide the map and list of phone numbers to all neighbors, regardless of how active they will be in the watch.
Recruit window watchers. Ask homemakers, retirees and work-at-home neighbors to sign up as “window watchers” — people who agree to be extra vigilant, especially during the day when others are at work. Crimes don’t just happen at night, home can be targeted during the day when people are away.
Get the word out. It’s crucial to have a way to communicate quickly. Use email blasts, a private Facebook page or even Nextdoor.com, a social networking site for crime prevention that allows you to register your cell number and receive urgent alerts from your neighbors.
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