Many communities have crime problems that need to be addressed. A Neighborhood Watch can help.
Start by identifying your group’s top concerns. During your first meeting invite local law enforcement to participate. They may have helpful resources and provide additional training.
It’s also a good idea to gather detailed crime statistics for your area. This information will be helpful in demonstrating the need for a Neighborhood Watch.
1. Get the Right People in the Right Places
A successful neighborhood watch program depends on the participation of residents. Inviting neighbors to join a meeting is the best way to gauge interest and gather information about crime concerns.
Organizers should also consider implementing a phone tree to quickly disseminate information or alert local law enforcement about suspicious activity. The group may also want to create a website, blog or social media page to communicate and share updates.
If the neighborhood is large, it is helpful to divide it into smaller units, such as blocks, and assign block captains who can help manage the volunteers in that area. It is also important to work with a local law enforcement liaison and schedule training sessions on warning signs, crime prevention strategies and crisis management for your members.
2. Organize Regular Meetings
Most communities have local law enforcement liaisons who can provide support and resources for starting a watch program. The liaison can also serve as a resource to help the group with disseminating information and answering questions.
Meetings are the best way for residents to get to know one another and discuss their concerns in a safe environment. Meetings can be held in a member’s home, school, church, community center or other suitable location.
At the first meeting, ask residents what their greatest concerns are and how they can work together to address them. Then work with your local law enforcement representative to create an action plan for addressing those concerns. Addressing the top issues will generate high levels of participation in your neighborhood watch program.
3. Delegate Responsibilities
No matter how many police patrols are in a community, no one knows the neighborhood better than the people who live there. In addition to keeping an eye on the property of their neighbors and reporting suspicious activity to local authorities, community watch members may also create a sense of occupancy by removing newspapers from front porches while residents are away, mowing lawns, or filling trash cans.
Involvement in a Neighborhood Watch program also helps restore a sense of community among HOA residents and can even be used to address social problems like substance abuse, youth crime, and bullying. As such, it’s important to delegate responsibilities in order to keep everyone on board and engaged. Neighborhood Watch groups generally include coordinators, communications officers, and block captains.
4. Work with Law Enforcement
The most important component of any Neighborhood Watch group is the community’s relationship with local law enforcement. Neighborhood Watch coordinators should make sure they connect with their local crime prevention officer, invite them to meetings and build a rapport with the group.
During the initial meeting, ask your neighbors what their top concerns are regarding crime in their neighborhood. Then, work together to come up with a plan on how your Neighborhood Watch will help alleviate these concerns.
This is where it’s important to talk about your observation skills and how to recognize suspicious activity. It’s also a good idea to provide law enforcement with some crime statistics in your area. This will help them understand the importance of your watch program. Additionally, it can show them that people in your neighborhood care about their safety and want to work with law enforcement.
5. Stay Connected
Once the group is established, it’s important to keep members engaged. This can be done through meetings, social events, and communication via the internet or text messaging tools. Meetings should be advertised and geared toward building community.
While it’s not the intent of a neighborhood watch to become a police force, groups can work with local law enforcement to provide more information and training for members. They also can offer resources like CPR and first aid classes. In addition, residents can take steps to prevent crime in their own neighborhoods. This could include removing their last names from mailboxes or planting security plants.
Getting a neighborhood watch program off the ground takes a lot of work, but it can make for a safer and more caring community. It’s a great way to reestablish informal agents of social control in an area where crime is high.