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How to start your own neighborhood watch program

Do you have a neighborhood watch program in your area? These citizen-based efforts help to prevent crime in suburban, rural and city neighborhoods worldwide.

How can you initiate and execute a neighborhood watch program to prevent crime in your own residential area?
How can you initiate and execute a neighborhood watch program to prevent crime in your own residential area?
Graphic created by this user – with The Eavesdropper by Eugene de Blaas - early 19th Century – public domain artwork

What is a neighborhood watch program?

Essentially, these local outreaches are formed when residents and police officers work together to prevent crime. In the United States, in particular, local and area police forces welcome the participation of citizens as crime stoppers and actually assist with the organization and formation of neighborhood watch programs.

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How can you initiate and execute a neighborhood watch program to prevent crime in your own residential area?

Here are six basic steps to help establish and launch a neighborhood watch program. Additional helpful information is available from such groups as National Neighborhood Watch (a division of the National Sheriff’s Association), the National Crime Prevention Council, and the National Neighborhood Watch Institute.

1. Know your neighbors.

The first step towards a neighborhood watch program is simple and social. Get to know your own neighbors. Neighbors who are familiar with one another tend to look out for each other as well.

Know the names and faces of your neighbors and their children. Can you recognize their pets? Do you know the vehicles they drive? If you have a clear perception of those who belong in your neighborhood regularly, you will be better able to recognize those who have no legitimate business being there.

2. Form a neighborhood committee or council, if your area does not already have one.

Many subdivisions have representative boards. Condominium developments may have member councils. Apartment complexes may have resident committees.

Designate an individual to draw up and distribute a directory of residents. Include addresses and telephone numbers, so neighbors may contact one another, as needed.

Basically, every practical step you can take towards building a cohesive community in your area will help to build your neighborhood watch program.

3. Enlist police assistance to launch your neighborhood watch program.

Once you have formed a neighborhood watch committee, those individuals can schedule a visit to the local police department. Your law enforcement officials will likely be willing to offer advice and instructions for forming your neighborhood watch program.

Most communities have specific requirements for official neighborhood watch programs. These may include regular meetings and citizen education programs. Those neighborhoods who meet these requirements may receive neighborhood watch signs for posting on their roadways.

4. Hold periodic neighborhood meetings.

Neighborhood meetings are a crucial component of a neighborhood watch program. Education is important to crime prevention. If you plan a neighborhood watch program for crime prevention, you will need to hold periodic meetings for residents of your area.

A neighborhood watch program may choose to hold resident meetings at the local library, the police department, the village hall, a local park, or neighborhood homes. Topics might include child abduction prevention, drug abuse awareness, fire prevention, first aid training, gang graffiti education, home security tips, traffic safety, and much more. Guest speakers could be police officers, fire officials, local government leaders, paramedics, and others.

As an added bonus, these content-oriented neighborhood watch meetings give neighbors an opportunity to become better acquainted.

5. Post your neighborhood watch sign throughout the area.

Once your area receives a neighborhood watch status, you will receive official signage for posting. Signs may say, “Crime Stoppers,” “Neighbors United,” or something similar.

Post these signs at all entrances and main streets in your neighborhood to deter would-be perpetrators from practicing their crimes in your area.

6. Report suspicious activity to law enforcement personnel.

The most important step towards crime prevention in any neighborhood watch program is to enlist all residents in keeping an eye on the area. Neighbors must be encouraged to look out for one another and to report any suspicious activity or people in the area.

Trusted neighbors will observe each other’s homes, while folks are away. Perhaps folks will pick up newspapers, packages and mail, so homes do not appear empty for days at a time.

A neighborhood watch program significantly improves the safety of a residential area, as citizens and law enforcement officials work cooperatively to deter crime.