An estimated 1,579,527 burglaries occurred in the United States in 2015, but only 216,010 of those offenders were arrested. That’s just 13.67%.

Organizing a neighborhood watch program is a simple and effective way to keep your community safe. Consider the following benefits.

1. Fight Crime for a Safer Community

The most obvious reason to organize a neighborhood watch program is to prevent crime. Groups that meet regularly and communicate efficiently are the most effective at reducing incidents. To get the most out of your group:

  • Gather interested neighbors, and define a group objective.
  • Work with the local police department to better understand common crimes, warning signs and best practices for action. Your group should have a law enforcement liaison to ensure all parties are working toward a shared goal.
  • Hold regular meetings so residents can get to know one another and decide on upcoming program strategies.
  • Tailor action plans based on the unique needs of your neighborhood. Specific activities may include, but are not limited to, organizing citizen patrols to support law enforcement officers, hosting crime prevention training, implementing a phone or email tree in case of emergency, providing victim support services and/or assessing homes or businesses for vulnerabilities.
  • Establish a consistent communication channel to keep all parties informed. This could be an email listserv, newsletter, website or Facebook group.
  • Assign a block captain for every 10-15 houses to gather and disseminate information between neighbors in their assigned area.
  • Seek opportunities to educate residents on suspicious activity and how to alert the group or authorities appropriately.
  • Publicize your program. Put up signs that warn criminals and encourage neighbors to join.

2. Create Awareness and Camaraderie

Another benefit of a neighborhood watch program and a direct result of crime prevention is a more connected community. Alert neighbors can stop crime and keep residents safe—while making the neighborhood a more welcoming environment.

Here’s how you can do your part:

  • Contact authorities if you see someone in trouble, or illegal, suspicious or unusual activity. Be specific in your observations.
  • Learn your neighbors’ schedules. Many have jobs that require them to be away from their homes during the day. Single-home dwellings are more likely to be targeted during the day between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. If you notice something that seems off, discuss it with your neighbor or ask questions.
  • Share concerns openly with your neighbors; problem-solve together.
  • If a neighbor will be out of town, offer to collect mail, mow a lawn or shovel the sidewalk while they are away.

3. Bring Light to Other Important Issues

Neighborhood watch programs can also provide an opportunity to discuss other important topics like animal control issues or vehicle safety concerns. Use your group as an avenue to collect opinions and ideas related to community concerns at large, and work as a team to solve.

Whether it’s a neighborhood beautification project or winter emergency planning, the possibilities for your group to support one another are endless.

Do you have a neighborhood watch program? Share strategies or useful tips in the comment section below.