Tips when starting a neighborhood watch

Neighborhood watch programs can provide communities with a sense of security while serving as a low-cost deterrent to crime. The National Crime Prevention Council even notes that watch groups can serve as a stepping stone to community revitalization.

Establishing a neighborhood watch program is no small task. Such programs are most effective when the entire community lends its support and participates. Men and women hoping to start watch programs in their communities can consider the following strategies, courtesy of the NCPC.

Getting started

Gathering neighbors and fellow community members to gauge levels of interest and discuss the challenges ahead is a great first step toward establishing a neighborhood watch program. Before hosting your first meeting, contact the local police or sheriff’s department and ask if an officer or deputy can attend the meeting and provide insight.

When planning the initial meeting, give fellow residents ample notice and choose a location that’s easily accessible to all.

At this initial meeting, discuss the purpose of the program and ask fellow community members how willing they are to participate, including how much time they can realistically devote.

Moving forward

Once the decision has been made to start a program, organizers can then ask for men and women to serve as block captains. Block captains will be responsible for disseminating information about the program to their neighbors, keeping them up-to-date on any crime or issues in the neighborhood as well. Captains also will serve as liaisons between the community and local law enforcement.

Men and women who volunteer to serve as block captains should devise a regular way to communicate with fellow watch members and residents. Email can be effective and easy, but keep in mind that older residents may prefer phone calls or direct contact.

Once community members have agreed to participate, organizers and block captains can create maps that highlight the homes of group members, including their phone numbers and/or email addresses as well.

Working with law enforcement

The cooperation of law enforcement can be considerable for neighborhood watch organizers. Speak with local agencies, asking if they provide training for watch programs. Such training may teach observation techniques and offer suggestions on reporting crimes.

Some local law enforcement agencies may even provide community members with neighborhood watch signs that participating households can post in their yards. Such signs can serve as a deterrent to prospective criminals and potentially help community members in distress.

It’s important that neighborhood watch programs also discuss vigilantism with local law enforcement agencies. Neighborhood watch participants should never take the law into their own hands. Block captains should emphasize to members that the point of the watch is to observe and alert.

Neighborhood watch programs can help make communities safer. Learn more at www.ncpc.org

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