How to Start a Neighborhood Watch
Photo by DGLimages
Whether your neighborhood is known as something of a crime hot spot, or you want to prevent that sort of thing from happening in the first place, one of the best ways to help combat crime is to form a neighborhood watch. Not only can a watch assist law enforcement, it can help neighbors come together, with the shared goal of protecting the neighborhood and each other.
It only takes a few steps and a bit of dedication to get things started:
Feel Out Interest
As invested as you may be in the idea of a neighborhood watch, others in your neighborhood may not. You need to find that out. You can’t exactly canvass the entire neighborhood on your own, so you need to recruit others to the cause.
As part of your recruitment process, you may want to create flyers, or organize one or two educational sessions in case people have questions. Some may feel they don’t have time to be part of a watch, or may be concerned about taking on this level of responsibility.
The fact is, being a member of a neighborhood watch doesn’t automatically entail nightly patrols or being a busy-body. It simply implies a promise to be watchful and aware of what’s happening around them. Any further commitment is up to them. Pointing that out up-front will go a long way toward successful recruitment.
Coordinate with Local Law Enforcement
A neighborhood watch is intended to help quickly detect and alert others to the possibilities of crime or suspicious activity, not to enforce the law. So, the watch needs to work in close collaboration with area law enforcement.
Once you have a good group pulled together, contact the local law enforcement agency that oversees your neighborhood (such as the Jackson County Sheriff’s Officeor city police department), and work on setting up a meeting to discuss the best ways for you all to work together.
Set Up the Infrastructure
You don’t want a free-for-all, so it’s important to organize your watch and set up official roles and a chain of command. According to National Neighborhood Watch, you should assign block captain roles, to oversee every 10-15 houses. You will also need a law enforcement liaison to help maintain that relationship.
Of course, you need someone who can keep all watch members and groups organized, commonly known as the neighborhood watch coordinator. Or, depending on the size of your neighborhood watch, you may pull together a citizen’s advisory board to oversee the watch groups throughout the area.
Schedule Meetings & Events
Ongoing communication between watch members, law enforcement and other members of the community will ensure the ongoing effectiveness of and enthusiasm for a neighborhood watch. Organize regular meetings to educate members on what to look for and how to report it.
Throw block parties to encourage neighbor involvement, as well as positive relationships with law enforcement and other first responders. Participate in the National Night Outand other formal crime watch campaigns.
All-in-all, the creation of a neighborhood watch should be a positive thing. It can actually help to bring a community together, while at the same time deterring crime and making things safer for all involved.