Steps to Starting a Neighborhood Watch Program

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We all want to live in a safe, friendly place where we know we’ll be okay on an evening stroll, an early morning run, or while we dream the night away. But great neighborhoods just don’t happen—the people who live there pitch in to create the kind of place they enjoy living in.

If your neighborhood doesn’t have a Neighborhood Watch program, or it isn’t as active as it should be, here’s everything you need to do to get your friends and neighbors excited about protecting your homes and each other.

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Why Neighborhood Watch?

For more than 40 years, neighborhood watch programs have been helping communities raise awareness and minimize crime. The program, originally started by the National Sherriff’s Association to help curb rising crime rates, is now an American institution.

Neighborhood Watch program benefits

  • Crime reduction
  • Better overall quality of life
  • Increased sense of personal control and responsibility for security
  • Improved community unity and pride
  • Productive partnerships with local law enforcement
Why you should start a neighborhood watch program

Get started

It’s easy to get your neighborhood watch program off the ground. But a Neighborhood Watch program gains strength in numbers, so follow these steps to make sure you get as many neighbors involved as possible.

  • Hold a launch meeting at a local gathering place like a community rec center, library, neighborhood clubhouse, or even your home.
  • Promote your group with flyers, door-to-door visits, and a Facebook page or other social media resource.
  • Contact local law enforcement and invite an officer to come to the launch meeting to provide tips about what makes neighborhood watch successful, how to spot suspicious behavior, and what to do if something happens.
  • Reach out to people trained in social work who can give insight on mental health conditions and how and when to approach someone acting oddly or when to call for help.
protect your neighborhood by forming a neighborhood watch

Lead by example

We can all talk about why being smart about safety is important, but it’s even more powerful to show your neighbors. Lead the way as a safety crusader for your neighborhood.

  • Get to know your neighbors, and exchange phone numbers—even those who aren't involved with Neighborhood Watch.
  • Conduct a safety audit of your home and share the results at a neighborhood watch meeting. Be sure to note any upgrades you had to make to door locks or windows.
  • The more neighbors who have a home security system and display so with a yard sign, the less likely burglars are to target your neighborhood. Talk with neighbors who already have a system, compare home security providers and decide if a monitored home security system is right for you.
  • If you already have a security system, share its features with neighbors and explain why you think home security is important.
  • Consider installing motion-sensor lights and/or security cameras.
  • Remove your last name from your mailbox, plant a security sign in your yard, and eliminate safety hazards like overgrown bushes that block the view into your home.
  • Become CPR and first aid certified so you can help in case of an emergency and before first responders arrive.
  • Check your biases. Everybody deserves to be safe, and that means being safe from discrimination too.
Fake Security Signs Deter Burglars

Keep it going

Once you’ve got your Neighborhood Watch program up and running, you need to make sure neighbors stay involved and your safety initiatives don’t fizzle out.

  • Stay in touch with your neighbors regularly. Use regularly-scheduled meetings with engaging topics to keep everyone involved. Assign different neighbors to host each meeting so everyone takes ownership in the direction of your watch group.
  • Create a group text alert system so it’s easy to communicate with one another, whether it’s time to patrol, someone saw something suspicious, or you just need to let them know you’re going out of town for the weekend.
  • Have a structured neighborhood safety plan that helps you identify your goals and monitor the effectiveness of your program.

Neighborhood safety is important. Don’t wait another day to get involved in making sure your neighborhood stays clear of trouble. Start the conversation and get that first meeting scheduled—your neighbors will thank you.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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