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What Are Neighborhood Watch Programs?

June 12th, 2013

Neighborhood WatchWhat Are Neighborhood Watch Programs?

Neighborhood Watch is a crime prevention program that stresses education and common sense. It teaches citizens how to help themselves by identifying and reporting suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. In addition, it provides citizens with the opportunity to make their neighborhoods safer and improve the quality of life. Neighborhood Watch groups typically focus on observation and awareness as a means of preventing crime and employ strategies that range from simply promoting social interaction and “watching out for each other” to active patrols by groups of citizens.

How Do I Find One?

You can start with asking your local police department. If they aren’t sure, you can look up the registered Neighborhood Watch programs on their website.

How Do I Start One?

From the main website:

So what does it take to start and maintain an effective Neighborhood Watch Program? According to one researcher (Baker 1999), there are five fundamental steps that make this possible:

First, strategies that address the problems in a given area must be mapped out. From the beginning stages of a Neighborhood Watch effort, it is essential to incorporate neighborhood involvement and identify ways to deal with the crime patterns of that area.

The second step involves building a partnership between law enforcement officers and residents. This is not always an easy hurdle to overcome since citizens are often angry with law enforcement for not doing anything about the crime problem in their community. For a Neighborhood Watch program to be successful, it is essential that officers understand the needs of a neighborhood and work as role models for neighborhood crime prevention efforts.

The third step is to assess the needs of a given neighborhood. In many cases, law enforcement and community members do not have the same focus. For instance, law enforcement may be focusing their attention on a problem that the neighborhood is not concerned about, such as attempting to address major crimes throughout the city. On the other hand, community members may be more concerned about crimes such as bicycle thefts or graffiti, which are considered minor from a police standpoint. Effective Neighborhood Watch programs unite law enforcement and residents and encourage them to collectively determine what problems should be addressed and how.

Next, selecting and training an active body of volunteers that are led by organized and motivated leaders is critical. Without motivation and organization, volunteers may be uninspired to participate and quit out of frustration.

The fifth and final step is to develop meaningful projects. Often, after a Neighborhood Watch has addressed its original issue, members lose interest. It is important for leaders to remain enthusiastic. One way to accomplish this is to create and embark upon new projects so that there is always a goal towards which the team is aspiring. Projects may include building a neighborhood playground or painting over graffiti, for instance.

What Are Some Other Ways to Get My Neighbors On Board?

See if your neighborhood already has an online group in Yahoo or Google. Or, perhaps your neighborhood is a part of the new NextDoor.com community.

Set up some alerts in CrimeReports and post them regularly to the group.  Or paste a few into an email or a flyer and put the flyers in your neighbors mailboxes. Then look into setting up a time to meet. Local churches are usually large enough to host neighborhood meetings.

To find out more information about registered sex offenders, use the website MegansLaw.

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