Since the 1970s, neighborhood watch groups have proven to be a highly effective way to keep neighborhoods safe from crime and unify the community’s residents. A neighborhood watch group usually consists of residents from a designated area of a town or city, who come together to prevent local crime by heightening their vigilance and establishing a presence in the community.
If your neighborhood doesn’t already have a watch group, starting one is easy if you follow these steps to get it off the ground.
Create A Solid Leadership Team
Any effective neighborhood watch group needs a strong leadership team at the helm. Usually, there is a designated block captain who is responsible for overseeing the group’s activities and ensuring its productivity. If you are the one starting your neighborhood watch group, consider taking on this role, or recruit other neighbors to help you spearhead the group.
Establish the general territory of your watch group – if you live in a large city or town, decide if you want the group to encompass a couple of blocks or a larger portion of the neighborhood. Once you figure out the general radius, find members of that area who might be interested in helping you get a watch group off the ground.
Establish A Partnership With Your Local Law Enforcement
Partnering with your local law enforcement is an essential step in creating an effective watch group. They will be responsible for educating the members of the group on how to detect and report suspicious activity, as well as how to conduct neighborhood watch duties in a way that is smart, safe, and effective. Additionally, they will be the ones you will be reporting to should you actually witness suspicious activity, so establishing a clear and open line of communication with law enforcement is crucial.
Organize A Launch Meeting
Once you have partnered with local law enforcement officials, it is then time to have a launch meeting to kick start the group. The launch meeting should be in an accessible, central location, such as a recreation center, a library, or even the block captain’s home. Promote the meeting by putting flyers out in hotspots around the neighborhood, such as shops, libraries, and schools. Door to door flyering will allow you to potentially meet neighbors you don’t already know, and face-to-face interaction will establish a friendly and welcoming vibe.
At the meeting, law enforcement will work with you to help educate members on how to spot and report suspicious activity, and will survey the specific needs of the community to create a personalized neighborhood watch system.
Engage With The Community
Neighborhood watch groups work best when the community is informed and connected. Establish partnerships with local businesses and stores to get as many people involved and in the loop.
Keeping a neighborhood safe goes beyond vigilance– having social events like block parties or neighborhood cleanups can also go a long way in keeping the neighborhood unified and safe. Additionally, encourage neighbors to invest in a home security system. Having as many security signs on front lawns will deter burglars and ultimately make the whole neighborhood feel safer. Also be sure to have one or a few neighborhood watch signs in place around the area.
Keep It Going
Creating the group is only half the battle. The key to a successful neighborhood watch group is a clean line of communication between its members, its leaders, and law enforcement. Make the guidelines of the group clear, strict, and effective. Establish a weekly or monthly meeting in a convenient location, so members can keep each other informed on any sightings, problems, or concerns. You can also keep the group informed and engaged through newsletters or even making a Facebook page or Twitter handle to make announcements. Make sure you also create a group text for emergency alerts.
Everyone wants to feel safe in their neighborhood, so while the idea of organizing an entire watch group may seem daunting, people will ultimately be on board with creating a safe and unified community.