Starting a Neighborhood Watch Program: Crime Prevention 101

Kenneth Wilson

Are you considering a Neighborhood Watch (N.W.) program in your neighborhood? Through this empowering initiative, you would be joining the millions of Americans who have taken action to safeguard their families and neighborhoods. Bring your neighbors together and defend one another using your strongest weapon: your eyes.

A neighborhood watch organization can reduce crime by raising awareness and fostering deeper ties amongst neighbors. Building an effective Neighborhood Watch group and cooperation from your neighbors and the police takes time and effort.

The Best Way to Organize a Neighborhood Watch (NW)

According to the National Neighborhood Watch, an N.W. group can be organized in various ways. The organizational structure must include the demands of the community and law enforcement, regardless of how your N.W. is set up.

A standard N.W. group will include a liaison from law enforcement, an area coordinator who resides in the neighborhood, block captains dispersed around the community, and watch members.

Leadership selection is one of the last phases in creating and operating a Neighborhood Watch. These people will be in charge of organizing and planning the tasks. As a Watch develops, its members could create an executive or advisory board to make choices for a more extensive area.

Brief Background of the Neighborhood Watch

In the U.S., the National Neighborhood Watch got its start in 1972. It is believed that having neighbors watch out for one another is the most effective strategy to deter crime since "our nation is built on the strength of our citizens."

More than 40% of Americans as of 2008 reside in locations where Neighborhood Watch programs are active. Overall, neighborhoods with a new Neighborhood Watch program showed a drop in crime by at least 9%, with several areas seeing significantly more significant declines.

Despite having only a "little good effect" in many places, the community members who were interviewed said it was still worth the minimal effort they made to contribute to even a slight reduction in crime. It's about so much more than just lowering crime, as some of the interviewed neighbors noted: it's about uniting the neighborhood to look out for one another.

4 Tips for Starting a Neighborhood Watch

Here are some pointers you should consider when starting a neighborhood watch:

  • Check to see if there are any other neighborhood watch organizations in the area whose leaders you may speak with. Ask them about the previous difficulties they've encountered and the strategies that have worked for them.
  • Find out if your neighbors are keen on forming a Neighborhood Watch. There is a good likelihood that the desire is vital if there have been recent crimes in your area. If not, interest may be low, but tell your friends and neighbors that an N.W. is best suited to stop property crimes.
  • Make a rough outline of the region the neighborhood watch will cover. Draw a boundary based on other existing watch groups, local geography, or the arrangement of the streets in your community.
  • If you wish to create a neighborhood watch, get in touch with your local police enforcement to see if they have an action plan. You may also take note of their resource or liaison officer's contact information.

Safety Considerations in Forming a Neighborhood Watch

The group members should know what to do if they notice something suspicious so as not to put themselves or others at risk. Remember that a neighborhood watch works with law enforcement, even if the members are not in law enforcement.

Be careful when deciding what "strange behavior" means, especially if you don't know all of your neighbors well. Others may not even be conscious of their preconceptions and biases, while certain members may have strong opinions regarding law enforcement. Plan how to address these issues in advance, especially during the first sessions.

How to Create a Neighborhood Watch in Your Community

Starting a Neighborhood Watch in your local area is relatively easy. The National Sheriff Association initially held this national program, so many local law enforcement agencies will be delighted to assist you. Here are the five steps on how you can get a Watch to be implemented in your neighborhood:

  • Gather your neighbors. Speak to as many neighbors as possible and convince them to support the idea. Then, you need to organize yourselves and assign designated tasks.
  • Get in touch with your local law enforcement and set up a meeting. Ask them to meet with your group so that you can explain the benefits that come with taking part in Neighborhood Watch. Cooperation with law enforcement is crucial because each city has its differences.
  • Develop a plan and talk about your concerns. Meet with your neighbors to explore what you can all do to lessen the impact of any particular circumstances in your neighborhood, such as car theft. Check out this guide from the National Neighborhood Watch for some helpful advice.
  • Establish a communication strategy. How do you want your group to communicate? Today, you have a wide range of options to keep in touch with your team, thanks to social media.
  • Take action! Conduct meetings, try to get kids and teens involved by creating fun events, and turn this into a neighborhood effort. No matter their age, you can always train your neighbors to watch out for crime and the right way to report it. Hang up signs in your neighborhood to remind everyone to be vigilant. Here's a quick checklist for starting a neighborhood watch program for your reference.

What Do Community Crime Watch Programs Do?

You will probably be asked many questions once you start recruiting your neighbors. One of the most frequently asked questions is, "What do Neighborhood Watch groups do?" Simply put, they keep an eye out for suspicious activities and report them. Some key characteristics of a successful Neighborhood Watch program include:

  • Good observation skills. Work together on how you will identify what is expected. For instance: people checking into every car late at night is not normal. You can also find it unusual for someone to loiter around in front of other people's residences for a long time.
  • Know what suspicious activity is. Law enforcement agencies define it as: "any event, incident, activity, or individual that may seem unusual, uncomfortable, or out of the ordinary."
  • Report. Establishing a good relationship with your local law enforcement is essential here. Reporting exactly what you observed can make it even more successful.

Do You Need a Neighborhood Watch Program?

Neighborhood Watch programs fill the gaps that law enforcement cannot always keep track of. It's comforting to believe that all your neighbors will look out for one another and report anything that seems strange. But in reality, people are motivated by a sense of organization.

If your neighbors know that you care about them and are working hard to keep them and their families safe– they will most likely reciprocate by doing their part. One of the U.S.'s most well-known crime prevention ideas is neighborhood watch. But it now goes beyond merely deterring crime.

Neighborhood Watch is assisting communities with disaster planning, emergency response, and even terrorism awareness, thanks to the organization's already-existing structure. A Neighborhood Watch is an excellent way to form organized communities and build strong bonds with your neighbors.

Kenneth Wilson
August 24, 2022

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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