Thinking about starting a Neighborhood Watch? Here’s what you need to know
The Neighborhood Watch program is one of the oldest of its kind in the country, and in many instances it has proven to reduce the occurrence of neighborhood crime. According to a report conducted by the US Department of Justice in 2008, several research studies showed a 16% decrease in crime from observed Neighborhood Watch communities between 1977 and 1994. To this day, Neighborhood Watch programs continue to be active, and can be found across the United States.
If you’ve recently moved into a new neighborhood or complex and notice that no such program has been put in place yet, it is rather simple to impart for your community. Local authorities are pleased to assist interested citizens in setting up a Neighborhood Watch community, but some measures should be taken by the citizens first.
1. Let your intentions be heard and set up a committee
The biggest step in getting a Neighborhood Watch program set up is recruiting enough of your fellow neighbors with similar intentions. Forming a committee that can represent the neighborhood is crucial, and can be as simple as door-to-door outreach or starting a social media group. You will want an ample amount of people to begin talks with your local authorities who can help you establish the next steps in the process.
Having enough individuals willing to participate in the program is also important since you local authorities may have a minimum eligibility requirement as to how many households need to participate. This wouldn’t stop you from having a Neighborhood Watch if you didn’t have enough households, but your local police are the main source for providing you signs and other materials you might need.
2. Set up a meeting
Once you have a solid committee in place, it’s important to educate the others in your neighborhood and community about what the Neighborhood Watch is all about. While we’re at it, let’s break the main points of the program:
In essence, the program is a consortium of civilians who agree to maintain the security and safety of a community through cooperative measures. This mostly involves keeping an eye out on one another’s property, and reporting suspicious activity to the proper authorities.
Bring the overall mission and goals to light at the initial meeting so that all involved neighbors/citizens have an common understanding.
3. Work with your local authorities
As mentioned, it is imperative that you inform and work with your local police to properly set up the Neighborhood Watch. You might even go so far to as to ask for a police offer to be present at the initial meeting that you organize. With the police aware of your program, it will assist in overall credibility, and can also mean a resource in training and the laws that participating citizens need to know about.
So how does the Neighborhood Watch work then?
Although not every program has this in place, some will elect “block captains” to act as the liaison between the citizens and police to direct any new information that needs to be shared.
It’s important to note that block captains are NOT to act as police officers, and should NOT intervene when any suspected criminal activity is taking place. Block captains who falsely assume this role can risk facing serious criminal consequences themselves.
Other than that, having a common place to discuss the state of the neighborhood is a good idea as well. Perhaps have a Facebook page setup for others to join, or start a mailing list for all participating individuals.
Make it a point to involve as many citizens in the Neighborhood Watch program as possible. Even if they don’t attend meetings you organize, as long as they understand the responsibility in keeping an eye out for one another’s home security, it can lead to a safer environment for all.