How to Set Up a Neighborhood Watch

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The idea behind a neighborhood watch is to educate private citizens on
how to recognize and report suspicious activities while promoting better
community relations. Neighborhood watch members serve as extra
eyes and ears for the police and channel information between neighbors
and law enforcement officials in their efforts to thwart crime.

  • Ask your police department how to set up a program. Schedule an initial meeting on your block. See 373 Plan an Organizational Meeting.

  • Establish the boundaries of the watch area at your first meeting. It must be an area that can be effectively watched and maintained. Discuss what, how and when to report activities to the police, and effective ways to use 911. The department liaison can recommend security measures for homes--such as locks, lights and alarms--and identify crime trends in your community.

  • Elect a rotating chairperson to oversee the program, and block captains to disseminate information and enlist volunteers.

  • Hold regular meetings with law enforcement personnel to educate neighbors on local crime patterns, effective crime prevention and crime reporting. Have your law enforcement representative present as a guide for the first few meetings and then return occasionally to address residents' questions and concerns.

  • Create a Web site and newsletter to post events and incidents. See 165 Produce a Newsletter.

  • Put together and distribute a list of all residents with their home and e-mail addresses, phone numbers and list of skills (which are also useful for emergencies--see 390 Create an Evacuation Plan). Update the list as families move in or out of the neighborhood.

  • Post neighborhood watch signs. Check with the police about regulations governing their posting and where to acquire them.

  • Contact the police department about developing a communitypolicing program. These partnerships are a collaborative effort between police, elected officials and residents, where the input of the entire community is utilized to reduce the incidence of crime and improve community relations.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact the National Crime Prevention Council (ncpc.org) for more information on neighborhood watches.
  • Neighborhood watch programs require an annual meeting with representatives from the police department to maintain the commitment to the program, to keep communication channels open within the neighborhood, and to have a vehicle in place to address concerns as they arise.
  • National Night Out (nationaltownwatch.org) is held on one summer night each year. Police officers and firefighters appear at neighborhood ice-cream socials, block parties and parades nationwide.

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