Neighborhood watch programs sprouted in the late 1960s due to rising crime rates. Groups vary in size and leadership: some are led by neighborhood associations or community associations, while others run under the National Sheriffs Association. In all cases, neighborhood watch associations are organized groups of citizens committed to securing their neighborhoods against crime.

Setting up a neighborhood watch program is simple if you do not currently have one established in your area. Below are steps to help you get started:

1. Reach Out to Your Neighbors

Speak with your neighbors to gather opinions and gauge interest in committing to watch program establishment. Once you’ve established who is dedicated, you can begin to schedule more regular meetings.

2. Organize Group Meetings

Organized meetings should be held in a space that can accommodate large groups of people. The space should have an atmosphere conducive to learning, and it should have video access for training videos.

Consider locations such as libraries, schools, community recreation centers, or members’ homes as valid options.

3. Partner with Local Law Enforcement

Group leaders should seek training from local enforcement officials to facilitate the watch group strategy and best practices. It is important to remember that your watch program is not a substitution for the police; it’s an extra pair of eyes to assist local law enforcement.

Create a communicative relationship with local authorities to ensure the establishment of an effective program.

4. Start Regular, Neighborhood Patrols

Understanding what to look for in your neighborhood is the first step toward protecting it. When you first start monitoring your neighborhood, look for the standard patterns and trends. That way, you can better spot when something may be off.

The best quality for a watch group member to have is a keen eye for detail. Insufficient street lighting, suspicious vehicles, an influx or decrease in foot traffic, and activity at unusual hours are potential flags to monitor.

If you do see something suspicious, be sure to take note of specifics when calling the police. Consider vehicle details (color, model, license plate) and suspect descriptors (height, weight, age, gender, scars, tattoos, and type of clothing). Your team’s dedication to details can aide authorities in an efficient and effective dispatch.

Remember that neighborhood watch programs are supplements to individual home security systems, law enforcement and proactive community engagement.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Review, a study conducted by the U.S Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services:

“The current review provides some evidence that neighborhood watch can be effective in reducing crime; however, the results of evaluations are mixed and show that some programs work well while others appear to work less well or not at all.”

While neighborhood watch programs can have a positive impact on your community, they do not protect your home with the same efficiency and consistency that a professionally monitored home security system would. Employing both would be ideal for communities.

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