How to start a Neighborhood Watch program
Keep your community safe.
If your community does not have a crime watch program in effect, starting one is a relatively simple process.
The Neighborhood Watch Program
The Neighborhood Watch Program has been in effect for over 30 years in cities, towns and rural areas across the country. Based on the concept of cooperation, neighborhood watch programs bring together law enforcement, city officials and residents to provide protection for their homes and communities. Supported by the National Sheriff's Association since 1972, the Neighborhood Watch Program is helping the public eradicate residential crime in their neighborhoods.
Form a Planning Committee
Form a planning committee with your neighbors to determine how much interest there is in your community. If the neighborhood votes to start a Neighborhood Watch, decide on a place and time for the first official meeting. Inform your local police or sheriff's office of the meeting approximately two weeks in advance. This will allow them ample time to assign a crime prevention officer to attend your meeting and inform the members of your community about the Neighborhood Watch Program.
Put Together Your First Meeting
Having an initial meeting is the first step in starting a Neighborhood Watch Program. Hold your first meeting in a place that is convenient for everyone such as a neighborhood home, church, library or school. Put together a flyer or letter of invitation and deliver one to every home in your area. Prior to the meeting, draw a map of the streets and homes that the Watch Program will cover.
The success of any Neighborhood Watch program depends on the participation and dedication of its members. Monthly meetings are necessary in order for members to develop an awareness of community activity.
Elect Your Coordinator
Important elected positions of responsibility exist in every Neighborhood Watch program. The first is the Neighborhood Watch Coordinator. This job is crucial for the success of the program and should be assigned to a retiree or a self-employed individual who spends time at home and can keep a close watch on the neighborhood.
The coordinator is responsible for handling new members. He, or she, is also in charge of maintaining a current list of participants and neighborhood residents, which includes names, addresses, phone numbers and vehicle descriptions. In addition, the coordinator acts as a communication link between watch members, civic groups, block captains and law enforcement officers.
Elect Your Block Captain
Another important position within any Neighborhood Watch program is the Block Captain. The group should designate one Block Captain for every 10 to 15 houses within the neighborhood. These individuals act as a liaison between block residents and the coordinator. They are also responsible for establishing a 'telephone chain' or a current list of names, addresses and telephone numbers of block participants to be distributed to the members of the Neighborhood Watch group.
The Block Captain is also responsible for providing the Crime Prevention Unit with a copy of the map of the homes included in the watch. Electing a Block Captain is an important step when starting a Neighborhood Watch.
Toolkits to Provide Training
Neighborhood Watch toolkits, which provide formal training for law enforcement, block captains and community volunteers in the form of CDs, are available from the National Sheriff's Association. This kit will help any community that wants to initiate a Neighborhood Watch program.
Any community interested in providing its citizens a safe and pleasant environment can start a Neighborhood Watch program. Participation and dedication are required to provide your community with one of the most effective crime prevention strategies available.