What is a neighborhood crime watch?

A neighborhood crime watch is a group of concerned citizens who work together with law enforcement to help keep their neighborhood safe. The National Sheriff’s Association and the Department of Justice implemented a national Neighborhood Watch program in 1972.

How the Program Works

The program relies on volunteers to patrol neighborhoods in an effort to discourage criminal activity. Neighborhood watch volunteers receive training about crime prevention from local law enforcement and work to add an extra layer of security to their neighborhood. Weapons are not used in conjunction with the program, and volunteers are discouraged from using weapons even if they legally possess them.

Crime watch programs encourage neighbors to get to know one another, making it easier to identify a car or person that is out of place.
Doing this can also help neighbors feel more comfortable reporting a problem or sharing concerns with one another. In addition to patrols, neighborhoods with watch programs are typically marked by signs that let people know the area is being monitored.

Success of Neighborhood Watch Programs

Even though it’s difficult to measure the success of neighborhood watch programs, the U.S. Department of Justice found that "citizen policing programs are associated with a significant reduction in crime." Areas with crime watch programs tend to see fewer burglaries than areas without. Success has been credited to the fact that watch programs work to stop the crime from happening, rather than focusing on changing the behavior of the criminal.

Joining the Neighborhood Watch

To find out if there is a crime watch group in your neighborhood, start by contacting your home owners association or local law enforcement agency. They will be able to direct you to the captain of your local watch group. The captain will let you know about upcoming meetings and help you receive the training required to join patrols.

How to Start a Neighborhood Watch

If there isn’t a watch group already established in your neighborhood, it’s easy to start one. Here are the steps you need to follow to add the security of a crime watch group to your neighborhood.

  • Contact your neighbors. Let others in your neighborhood know that you’d like to start a crime watch group and ask them to join you.
  • Reach out to law enforcement. Once you have recruited neighbors, contact local law enforcement. Share your intention to start a group and ask them to help by attending your first meeting and providing general training for all volunteers.
  • Identify concerns. During your initial meetings ask neighbors to share any concerns they have about crime and safety in the neighborhood. Try to narrow it down to the top two or three concerns your group wants to address.
  • Create a plan. It is important to outline how your watch group can help alleviate concerns. You should include a communication plan for what to do in the event of an emergency or incident, scheduled patrols, additional training, and crime prevention education for members of the community.
  • Establish a schedule. Plan regular meetings and schedule some neighborhood events. Work with law enforcement to arrange a block party to let the whole neighborhood know about your group and how they can get involved.

If you want to make a difference in your community, neighborhood watch is an effective way to work with your neighbors to help fight crime and increase safety.

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