What is a Neighborhood Watch Program?
According to the USAOnWatch.org, the national Neighborhood Watch organization and a part of the National Sheriffs’ Association, a neighborhood watch allows citizens to help in the fight against crime and offers an opportunity for communities to bond through service.
Steps for Starting a Neighborhood Watch Program
1. Get educated. You can sign up your neighborhood watch group at USAOnWatch.org (http://www.usaonwatch.org/register/default.aspx) to gain additional resources to help you organize and manage your group. For example, USAonWatch.org offers a brochure (http://www.usaonwatch.org/assets/sample_docs/Neighborhood_WatchDraft12-12.pdf) that will help you explain the benefits of the organization to community members. You will also want to gather facts about crime statistics in your neighborhood.
2. Organize your core group of Neighborhood Watch volunteers. Talk to your neighbors and invite them to attend an initial presentation. Making one-on-one connections by going door to door is often the best way to reach prospective volunteers. One person per 8 to 10 households is typically recommended. Choose an optimal night of the week for the introductory presentation; weekends are not advised for best attendance.
3. Contact your local law enforcement agency and invite them to participate. Invite them to meet with your group. This will create a valuable communication channel with your local agency. Law enforcement should be able to share valuable information about how to keep your community members safe and how to handle incidents should they occur.
4. Provide training. Local law enforcement can often provide training for Neighborhood Watch volunteers including learning how to report suspicious activity and crime prevention techniques such as home security, personal safety and Operation Identification. Specialized training for the coordinator and Block captains is also often provided.
5. Give community members a forum to share concerns and develop an action plan. With or without your local law enforcement agency, you will want to host a neighborhood meeting to allow community members to discuss issue and concerns. Having information about neighborhood crime statistics can be very informative. Sometimes, residents' opinions are not supported by facts, and accurate information can reduce the fear of crime. From this meeting, the neighborhood watch group can create a plan for addressing the top concerns.
6. Decide on a communication and follow up plan. Talk to group members about how they wish to communicate and be communicated with. Phone trees, email and social media can all be good options as long as everyone agrees to the method of participation. Set up a regular monthly or more frequent meeting schedule to engage community members and respond to issues. Regular newsletters and updates are also advised to keep the community engaged. You can order Neighborhood Watch signs at USAonWatch.org.
Neighborhood watch programs can be an invaluable resource in reducing crime and fostering community.