For decades now, neighborhood watch programs have helped communities to reduce crime, raise awareness, and establish security within residential areas. The program originally emerged as a plan to help curb rising crime rates, and now it's an American institution. In fact, one study by the US department of justice found a 16% decrease in crime within neighborhood watch areas. Studies over the years show that 41% of Americans live in a "neighborhood watch" area, making the program the largest crime-prevention activity in the country. Additionally, all research indicates that "watch" areas experience lower rates of crime. Ultimately, the outcomes of a neighborhood watch program are:
Better peace of mind
Reduced crime rates
Higher sense of personal security
Productive partnerships with the local community
Here's how you can start your own neighborhood watch experience.
Step 1: Canvas the Area
Neighborhood watch programs work best if you have the full support of your local community. You could begin by printing out leaflets about neighborhood watch solutions, and posting them around the surrounding areas. It may be a good idea to knock on doors and speak to residents in nearby homes, so you can get their details if they're interested in the scheme. Remember to identify the area that you're going to operate in before you begin canvassing. Most areas will already have pre-established boundaries, in the form of streets, or road junctions. Depending on the support you get, your scheme could be large, or small.
Step 2: Get to Know the Threat
Knowledge is power, and determining what the biggest threats in your area might be can help you to prepare for the worst. For instance, you might be aware that houses in your street are frequently broken into, or that there's a high rate of vandalism and car theft. The more you know about the risks you're facing, the more you can implement customized solutions for crime reduction. Consider checking out the crime statistics for your area online, or speaking to your local police officers about the situation for your neighborhood. You can also visit the National Sex Offender website, and watch the local news for more updates.
Step 3: Collaborate with Your Neighbors
Neighborhood watch schemes thrive on a powerful and connected community. The more you know about your neighbors, the more you can work together to fight back against crime. Make sure that you all have each other's contact numbers, and a way to communicate about your concerns when necessary. Regular meetings can be a great way to make sure that you all know what the others are doing to take steps against crime. Additionally, you could set up online communities and social media groups where you can share photographs, updates, and information with your neighbors instantly. Just remember to ensure that you keep these groups "private" and only invite people you know to be safe. The last thing you want is for the criminals to know exactly what you're doing.
Step 4: Connect with Law Enforcement
It's not just the support of your neighbors that you need to run a successful neighborhood watch program, but the support of your local police too. Make sure that you contact the authorities for your area and tell them what you're going to be doing on the behalf of your community. You could invite members of law enforcement to come to your meetings, or make sure that they have access to your camera feeds to keep them up to date. It's worth writing down the names and numbers of the officers stationed in your area, as this means that you'll know exactly who to speak to if you or your neighbors notice anything suspicious, or worthy of investigation.
Step 5: Do Your Part
A great neighborhood watch program involves community work, combined with individual steps to improve safety. Try to make sure that your home is secure as possible by installing burglar alarms and locking your doors and windows before you leave your home. Add motion-sensitive lights to the exterior of your property, and make sure to lock your valuables in a safe. The more you do to protect your own home, the more you can contribute to lower crime rates in your area simply by being vigilant. Think about trimming your hedges so that your neighbors can see into your garden, and make sure that no-one's hiding in the foliage too!
Starting your Neighborhood Watch Program
Starting a neighborhood watch program can be one of the best things a community can do to secure their homes and minimize crime rates. There's strength in numbers, and when people work together to protect an area, criminals are less likely to target a space. After all, it's much easier to attack a home that's unprotected, then attempt to overcome the security efforts of an entire neighborhood.