We are shedding some light on Community neighborhood watch programs and their effectiveness, and how to start a successful neighborhood watch.
Your home is your castle, protecting you and keeping you from harm. Your neighborhood is like the moat that surrounds your castle. Just like if there are dangers in or around the moat that surrounds a real castle, if there are dangers lurking in your neighborhood, the safety of you and your loved ones is at risk. For that reason, creating a Community Neighborhood watch
program in place can help to not only ensure your protection but also ensure the protection of everyone who surrounds you.
What is a neighborhood watch program?
A neighborhood watch program is one of the best ways to ensure that a living community is safe from criminal activities and other issues. The primary objective of this program is to educate a neighborhood regarding safety and security measures. It even focuses more on implementing ways and techniques for strengthening safety in a neighborhood to lower the crimes at bay. In other words, it involves bringing citizens together with law enforcement departments to initiate necessary steps to deter the crime rates.
Another thing about a neighborhood program is that it gives ways to create awareness among residents to eliminate crimes with high success rates. It enables a living community to monitor and report the movements of suspicious people properly. The law enforcement officers will work closely with living communities to observe people who indulge in crimes, vandalism, and other illegal activities.
Apart from that, they provide methods to learn more about the problems prevailing in the neighborhood in advance to take immediate actions accordingly. A neighborhood watch program contributes more to promote harmony and trust among residents enabling them to lead a problem less life.
The major components of a community watch program include community meetings, community patrol, communication, special events, and other aspects related to safety measures. It provides ways to get alerts and helping neighbors to ensure high protection from potential threats. With a community watch program, it is possible to prevent crime rates with high success rates. There are various things involved in a community program and one should get more about them in detail for meeting essential needs.
Steps on Starting a Neighborhood Watch Program
“Is there a neighborhood watch in my area?” Join in neighborhood watch immediately if you live in a neighborhood watch area.
If you live in a community that does not have a neighborhood watch program, starting one is a lot easier than you may think. The first step is taking the reins and putting the effort forth to get the program started. Here are some things that you can do to get a neighborhood watch program started in your community.
Step 1: Contact law enforcement. Local law enforcement officials are one of the staples of an effective neighborhood watch program. Make sure to contact them prior to spreading the word about your program, so that you can ensure that they are on-board and prepared to work with you and your community.
Step 2: Organize a launch meeting. Once you have decided that you want to start up a neighborhood watch program, the first thing you should do is hold a launch meeting. Schedule the meeting on a date and time that would be convenient for the majority of the members of your community; weekends are ideal, as most people do not work on weekends. Do note that you can hold two launch meetings, which can be held on separate dates and at different times; on a Saturday afternoon and on a Tuesday evening, for example, to ensure that all members of your community can attend.
Set up strict neighborhood watch guidelines. Make sure to invite your local law enforcement officials to the launch meeting(s), as their presence will reassure those who are interested in participating. Hold the meeting(s) in a place that is comfortable and can accommodate all; a community recreation center, your local library or even your home.
Step 3: Spread the word. Once you have contacted law enforcement officials and organized your launch meeting, let your community know about it. The easiest way to do this is by making flyers and distributing them in the mailboxes in your community, placing them on doorsteps, or putting them on cars. You can even go door-to-door and personally invite your neighbors to the meeting and distribute flyers.
Step 4: Be prepared. Make sure that you are fully prepared to answer any and all questions that your community members may have in regard to the program. If you don’t have an answer at the time a question is asked, make sure that you find out the answer and get back to the person who asked the question.
Step 5: Be a leader. The most effective way to start and keep a neighborhood watch program going is leading by example. If you are the person who enacts the program, you want to make sure that you set a good example for the rest of the members in your national neighborhood watch Institute to follow.
More thing you need when starting a Neighborhood Watch in Your Area
1. Get to know your neighbors
“Knowing the people that live next door and down the block from you can help stave away unwanted activity,” who suggests people get outdoors and walk through their neighborhood. “Be friendly and greet others who are engaged in yard work, have small kids, or are out walking just like you. Knowing people by sight will help increase the feeling of safety in your neighborhood.”
Welcoming new neighbors and attending block parties is also a good start towards building a solid community, he adds.
2. Build a neighborhood list
“We hold a party twice a year where we have an opt-in neighborhood list with email addresses and phone numbers,” says Andy of Woodland Hills, CA. “There are about 70 families, and people can post things like lost dogs, neighborhood watch summaries, and road resurfacing details.”
Having an email chain is a great way to spread the word, especially with so many people attached to their smart phones day and night.
3. Create a Facebook page
Once you create your official neighborhood watch Facebook page, it’s time to get the word out.
“Canvass your neighborhood door to door, and invite everyone to follow the page to stay up to date on meetings and events,”. A simple postcard or flyer will help let everyone know your intentions for the program.
“Choose a social media–savvy neighbor to serve as the Facebook page moderator and ask residents to post any incidences (such as a home or car break-ins),” he says.
Make the group private so personal information doesn’t get out to the masses and it feels like a neighborhood safe space.
4. Be on the lookout for out-of-the-ordinary occurrences
Put the “watch” part of “neighborhood watch” into practice every day by knowing who your neighbors are; this will make it easier to spot suspicious activity.
“Members of a community are in the best position to notice variances in the environment,” says psychologist Thomas Boyce, founder of the Center for Behavioral Safety in San Carlos, CA. “That is, neighbors typically know neighbors, and things that look out of place can be addressed before they become problems.”
5. Hold regular neighborhood watch meetings
Getting all of your neighbors together can be tricky due to scheduling, but it’s also one of the best ways to keep communication open.
“Plan meetings well in advance (e.g., monthly or quarterly) at a neighbor’s home or the local library, and offer a baby sitter—it will boost attendance”. “These gatherings will help residents get to know each other, allow you to plan strategies, and keep everyone in the loop.”
6. Establish ‘Safe Homes’
Designate a handful of safe homes that children playing or walking home in your neighborhood can come to in case of an emergency.
It is ideal if the safe house belongs to someone who is retired or works from home. Make stickers for the front door or window, and make sure the kids in your neighborhood know which homes are safe zones.
7. Limit door-to-door solicitation
Discourage door-to-door salespeople and other strangers from soliciting in your neighborhood.Notes that many burglars will use this method to case properties. This could be a good topic to bring up at a neighborhood meeting. Ask residents to put a small sign on their door that says “No Solicitation” to make it crystal-clear.
8. Distribute a safety reminder sheet
People get busy and sometimes forget basic home safety practices. Consider creating and distributing a flyer or pamphlet with reminders like turning on exterior lights at night (a well-lit neighborhood makes crime less likely) and locking cars that are parked on the street.
Check-out these helpful videos, community neighborhood watch help:
|Starting a community watch||Community working together|
Special Thanks to Durham police department for this training video.
|PART 1||PART 2|
|PART 3||PART 4|
Are Neighborhood Watch Programs Effective?
The effectiveness of neighborhood crime watch programs is often doubted.
According to neighborhood watch program statistics, the national burglary rate decreased by about 30%. And there have been so many successful neighborhood watch programs, indicating the benefits of forming community watch.
What are the problems involved in a neighborhood watch program?
National Sheriff’s Association is the official sponsor of the neighborhood watch program which trains and supports living communities. It will organize a program in a location with the support of volunteers thereby showing ways to prevent crimes and other problems. Another thing is that it will conduct meetings in a neighborhood regularly in order to get feedback from a living community.
Although neighborhood watch programs provide several advantages to people, they have some disadvantages too and everyone should know more about them in detail.
Community policing plays an important role in police- living community relations and problem-solving. The police department develops a program to improve relations with local people to curb the crime rates efficiently. On the other hand, the main problem in community policing is community involvement. Without the support of community involvement, it is really a difficult one to make a program a successful one.
Since an effective community policing requires a long-term commitment, everyone should involve in a program to reduce the crime rates significantly. It takes more time to establish and build relations with people in a neighborhood that can lead to various problems while implementing a program.
Another disadvantage in community policing is the appointment of the right people in a project because it is not an easy process. There are some coordinators who misuse a program for their personal career or agenda. Therefore, it is advisable to recruit coordinators based on experience and other factors. A neighborhood watch program requires support from everyone and not from particular people and homeowners.
Some citizens in a neighborhood won’t get involved in crime prevention after implementing the community policies. This is due to fear of appraisal and apathy that makes the program an unsuccessful one. Those who don’t have faith in the judiciary system are less likely to become involved in a program. In most cases, citizens prefer to keep themselves and avoid filing a complaint to concerned authorities in order to remain invisible within a living community.
Not understanding the laws and responsibilities
Most people don’t understand and follow the laws after implementing a program. In fact, they are not aware of their responsibilities properly which leads to various problems. People who have a bitter experience with law enforcement officers may create negative opinions in the living community which makes a neighborhood program an unsuccessful one. Furthermore, they don’t support law enforcement departments when it comes to security measures.
Another thing is that most residents don’t understand the duties and responsibilities of law officers after implementing a program. Some law enforcement officers say that some people lack faith in the judicial system due to lenient sentencing and policies. Criminals exploit lenient policing by indulging in criminal acts which challenge the authority of police officers.
Lack of communication
Communication plays an important role in a community watch program that helps to reach people easily. Lack of communication is another important thing that causes various problems in a program. This is because most programs don’t define the goals, objectives, and other things properly while implementing them.
Some residents face difficulties in understanding more about a program in detail which results in communication problems. Having a community program that lacks communication will result in various issues.
Not following any set of rules and regulations
A recent study says that many community programs are self-made that are not registered to a council which approves them. That means they don’t follow any set of rules and regulations correctly that ultimately leads to several issues. Things may get out of hand when they are not followed in a neighborhood. Apart from that, they will result in unwanted problems while controlling a situation.
Varied ideas and opinions
Sometimes, people who live in a neighborhood may have different ideas and opinions when it comes to security measures. This is because they feel that law enforcement departments will interfere in their personal life which affects their privacy levels to a large extent. A community watch program may become an unsuccessful one when they when citizens don’t have a common opinion. Besides that, it becomes a difficult process to implement a new plan in a neighborhood when it comes to security measures. Varied ideas and opinions may make a program a weaker one while taking new decisions.
Struggle of power
There is no guarantee that not all citizens follow the rules after implementing a program in a neighborhood. In fact, some people will participate in a program for wrongful reasons. They will also misuse the power for personal gains and not for the improvement of a community which affects the quality of life. Not choosing the right people for a program may make a program an unsuccessful one.
Volunteers take various responsibilities while implementing a community. However, the difference in opinions between volunteers may divide the neighborhood that makes the environment unpleasant. Besides that, it may make certain situations worse causing law and order problems. A majority of volunteers don’t know what to do in a community program that can result in several complications.
Using social media networks wrongly
Social media networks contribute more to deliver messages in quick turnaround time. On the other hand, many people will use them in the wrong ways to create problems in a neighborhood after launching a community program. This will result in violence, vandalism, and other issues thereby causing disturbances. Restricting the usage of social media and other internet applications can result in more advantages.
Not building a strong community
A community watch program requires joint co-operation between the community members and law enforcement officers. At the same time, building relations may become a difficult one for police officers due to some loopholes in the law system. Building a strong community is the most crucial factor in determining the success of a community program because it can do major wonders.
A community watch program must have a strong foundation that emphasizes on the safety measures in a neighborhood. However, they are many programs which fail to do this due to poor management and other problems. Laying a strong foundation is necessary for making the community program more effective to get the desired results.
Making wrong decisions
Wrong decisions in a community program may result in various issues causing troubles to the citizens. For example, there are some neighborhood s which are in need of security devices for monitoring the movements of suspicious persons. However, they should need permission from local authorities that many people are not aware of them. It is also applicable to all members while planning important activities in a neighborhood.
Not discussing the problems in detail
Both law enforcement officers and citizens should sit together to discuss the problems in detail for taking further actions. In fact, community program organizers don’t focus on the important matters in a discussion and meeting that make the program an ineffective one. This is because discussing the issues briefly will help to solve certain problems efficiently.
Crossing the limits
Residents in a neighborhood will cross their limits by interfering with the law system. In fact, they will often forget their limits and like taking matters on their own hands. They even don’t know the difference between what is lawful and unlawful. It is necessary to deal with crimes as per the laws and some people don’t implement them rightly. In other words, members can take laws on their own hands when it comes to crimes which violate the rules and regulations.
Not reaching a unanimous agreement
A community watch program should get approval from members while passing some resolutions and implementing new plans related to security measures and threats. At the same time, it becomes a difficult one to reach a unanimous agreement due to the difference in opinions. This will make a program an ineffective one which may affect a living community. It is an important one to get opinions from community members before initiating any plan in a neighborhood. Otherwise, the program doesn’t work well that can result in disadvantages.
Not training volunteers properly
Volunteers in a community program need proper training for accomplishing goals while carrying out important tasks. This will help a lot to make sure that they follow the protocols and other things with more attention. There are some volunteers who face difficulties in knowing the things involved in a program to insufficient knowledge and other factors. Hence, appointing inexperienced volunteers in a neighborhood can result in various problems.
Not working with police authorities
There are some citizens in a neighborhood who may refuse to work with police officials even after implementing a community program. That’s means they don’t report about the crimes to law enforcement authorities immediately. Apart from that, they won’t cooperate with them when it comes to investigations and other things. A community watch program is all about crime preventing and not working with the police department may increase the crime rates.
Not focusing on moral values
A community program should give more importance to moral values such as determination, honesty, integrity, and giving respect to each other. This will help a lot to educate people on how to differentiate between good and bad things accurately. Most programs don’t focus on them which lead to various problems. Adding moral values in a neighborhood watch program will provide opportunities for improving relations between living communities and law enforcement authorities thereby showing ways to obtain optimal results.
To make a community program a successful one, it is advisable to follow the above things that can help to experience the desired outcomes. Also, communities can reduce the criminal activities in a neighborhood enabling them to live a peaceful life.
More Tips Forming Successful Neighborhood Watch Programs
To help starting successful Neighborhood Watch programs, there are some things you should pay attention to:
• Make the most of neighborhood crime watch website or apps to communicate and cooperate with members in the community more conveniently.
• Try using neighborhood watch cameras in your community watch group. A neighborhood with lots of video surveillance camera installed would be less attractive to burglars.
Security Cameras and Security Systems
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• Set up neighborhood watch stickers, signs, decals in your area. This will keep some intruders or thieves at bay.
While your home is your castle and it can certainly protect you from outside dangers, there is only so much that your walls, doors and roof can do. Starting an effective Neighborhood Watch program will ensure your security and the security of everyone who lives in your community.
Neighborhood Watch for the Digital Age
Everyone has the right to feel safe in their community. Whether you’ve got kids playing in the street, you walk to work or just want the general peace of mind of knowing your home and neighborhood are safe, this is something everyone wants and deserves from their community. Unfortunately, this level of community safety is only a reality for a lucky few.
These promising decreases in crime rates are likely due to a multitude of factors – including improved policing and crime prevention measures. There has also been an increase in the use of technology in crime prevention and law enforcement with the potential to dramatically improve security levels in our communities. This article will look at some of the technologies being adopted by communities and law enforcement agencies to improve our neighborhood safety.
Mapping Community Crime
Online crime mapping services have been created with the combined efforts of law enforcement data and community input in order to physically plot where crimes have taken place in our neighborhoods – with data including the time, date, type and exact location of the crime that occurred. Websites like Spot Crime and Crime Mapping make invaluable resources for millions of Americans.
You can get involved by organizing a community meeting and examining where the crime is in your community. By doing something as simple as looking for criminal hot spots, police, business owners and members of the public can increase security measures in these areas. Introducing CCTV, deterrent fencing, increased patrols and ensuring the area is well lit can make a dramatic difference – effectively eliminating crime in the area.
Increasing Criminal Conviction Rates
Many crimes go unpunished through lack of evidence – and whether they’re committed out of sight or prosecutors lack the physical evidence to build a solid case, criminals are getting off the hook. And, without the deterrent of being convicted of a crime, offenders are more likely to fearlessly engage in illegal activity – threatening our communities.
There has been a sharp increase in the use of CCTV cameras worldwide, with the UK leading the trend in recording criminal evidence. Current data estimates there is 1 CCTV camera for every 10 people, bringing the total number of cameras in the UK to 4.7 million – many of which protect communities, schools, hospitals and other public areas or buildings. However, these cameras are generally static, meaning they don’t always capture the evidence needed.
The development of body-worn camera technology is proving to be a potentially valuable asset to law enforcement in particular. These micro CCTV systems are attached to the officer’s clothes, providing full documentation of evidence from the wearer’s point of view, essentially recording everything you see.
It is clear that crime prevention is becoming more reliant upon technology, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it will always be the combination of the human and technological element which ultimately makes our communities a safer place.
By John Young & Mary Cotton
Community Watch Paper is a nonprofit website that is a affiliate with Amazon.
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