For more than 40 years, Neighborhood Watch has enabled private citizens to join with law enforcement to help keep their communities safe. Watch groups maintain an around-the-clock presence to keep track of neighborhood goings-one. And, it works. Their work is credited with being among the nation’s most effective programs to prevent crime, according to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).
If you’re interested in starting a watch group for your own neighborhood, block or apartment building, you have a great organizing opportunity coming up: National Night Out (NNO). Held on the first Tuesday of August, NNO is an annual community-building event that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Locally, the City of Renton is hosting National Night Out at Jones Park, 104 Wells Avenue South, in North Renton. This free event will include food, games, party hoppers for the kids and fun for the entire family!
Starting a Neighborhood Watch program in your neighborhood is not hard, but it will take a little time and some proper planning.
Step One: Getting started
- Visit the USAOnWatch.org website to find more great information to help you get started.
- Determine the area or “neighborhood” you want to organize. Groups can range in size from 5 to 150 households. The larger the area, the greater the protection.
- Find neighbors to assist you and be your initial group of Neighborhood Watch Volunteers. A good number would be one person per 8 to 10 households.
- Register with National Neighborhood Watch
- Set up a free Neighborhood Watch website to help coordinate and communicate your efforts
Step Two: Contact the Sheriff’s Office to schedule speakers
- Contact Your Local Sherri’s Office or Police Department to discuss Neighborhood Watch and local crime problems. Invite a law enforcement officer to attend an initial meeting.
- Arrange a meeting location close to your neighborhood. It should have enough room to hold your invited neighbors and, if needed, for the use of audio visual aids such as an overhead projector.
- Determine the best night of the week for a presentation. Most Neighborhood Watch presentations are held during the evening hours, Fridays and weekends are not recommended.
Step Three: Invite your neighbors
- Distribute the invitations at least 2 weeks prior to the meeting. The most effective way to do this is to ask the Neighborhood Watch volunteers to hand-carry them to neighbors and ask if they will attend. Get names and phone numbers and emails to send reminders.
- Distribute a meeting “reminder” notice 3 days before the meeting if possible make reminder calls &/or send emails the day before.
Step Four: Prepare a neighborhood map
- Start Preparing a Neighborhood Watch area map or plat plan showing names, phone numbers and street number of each household
Step Five: The presentation:
- Meet your neighbors. Hold the meeting to gauge neighbors’ interest, establish the purpose of the program.
- Identify neighborhood concerns. Residents should also be aware of the types of crime that affect the area.
- Establish a regular means of communication with members: telephone tree, e-mail, printed newsletter, blog, Facebook group, or Mobile App etc.
- Recruit or elect your Coordinator and enlist Block Captains volunteers who will be responsible to relay information to members on their block, keep up-to-date information on residents and work to involve the elderly, working parents and young people. Block captains also serve as liaisons to police and communicate information about meetings and crime incidents to residents.
- Obtain the rest of information needed to finish neighborhood map showing names, addresses and phone numbers of participating households and distribute it to members. Block captains keep this up to date, touching base periodically with members and contacting newcomers.
- Learn how to report suspicious activity. With guidance from local law enforcement, train members of the watch group in home security techniques, observation skills, personal safety and crime reporting.
Step Six: Implement
- Order Neighborhood Watch signs.
- Before posting Neighborhood Watch signs, check with law enforcement about eligibility requirements, such as number of participating households. Law enforcement may be able to provide the signs, or suggest where they can be ordered.
Step Six: Maintenance
- Once your neighborhood has been organized, maintaining interest in Neighborhood Watch is important. It’s too easy for us to forget to keep that vigilance we thought was so important in the beginning. Some groups maintain interest by planning neighborhood outings, meetings, summer picnics and passing out a Neighborhood Watch Newsletter every month.
- Tips for Success
- Remember that watch group participants are expected only to be observant and to report to police – not to act as police themselves.
- Schedule regular get-acquainted meetings to decide on strategies and activities. Involve everyone – young and old, single and married, renter and homeowner. Conduct door-to-door membership drives.
- For help with meeting places, office supplies and other organizing needs, consider allying with a citizens’ association, community development office, tenants’ association or housing authority.
- Ask residents to turn on outdoor lights at night.
- Keep track of rumors about crime in your neighborhood, and see to it that the facts get out quickly.
- Celebrate success and recognize volunteer efforts with awards, and annual parties.
Call us at 425-228-7406 or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!
Source: USAOnWatch.org and the National Crime Prevention Council