Safe and Sound

How To Set Up a Neighborhood Watch

May 5th, 2014

All across America, residents are beefing up their home security systems to protect their families and other precious belongings. Many digital security applications create an effective barrier between you and home intruders. However, integrating a few more lines of defense would positively affect the security of your home. One of the most effective and proactive approaches to home security is developing a neighborhood watch. It is not too difficult to create and is quite simple to manage and maintain. If you are interested in building an extra layer of defense for your home, here are a few things you should know about the neighborhood watch:

What is a Neighborhood Watch?

A Neighborhood Watch is a gathering of concerned citizens, usually living in the same neighborhood or near-by houses, who work together to reduce crime in their immediate area. People in the Neighborhood Watch are assigned different responsibilities, patrol their designated areas and often use the services of local law enforcement to spread awareness. At its core, the Neighborhood Watch program is home security at the most basic and local level. Because the program is made of willing and able volunteers, communities trust and believe these people have the ability to protect the neighborhood.

Because the local Neighborhood Watch is made of members of a particular community, there is a sense of ownership and responsibility that goes beyond deterring criminal activity. These kind and caring individuals are also often involved in emergency preparedness and facilitating community-wide responses to natural disasters. They are involved in the dissemination of law enforcement news and different or recurring patterns of crime. Neighborhood Watch members offer workshops such as specific ways to prevent crime in the area. They also conduct home security surveys. These surveys produce useful information and are a way for citizens to feel empowered when crime happens in their area.

What Type of Organizations are Involved in Typical Neighborhood Watch Programs?

Although ordinary folks are the heart and soul of a Neighborhood Watch, local and federal agencies play a role in protecting the community as well. The Bureau of Justice Assistance, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Justice Programs are just a few federal administrations that support Neighborhood Watches by providing financial aid, products, equipment and information. These people get involved when cases of serious crime and foreign or domestic terrorism occurs. Neighborhood Watches might also develop relationships with state and local law enforcement agencies. Sheriffs’ deputies, police officers and tactical teams on this level are an integral part in the dissemination of important information on the whereabouts or activities of criminals known to operate in a specific location. Local agencies might have a law enforcement liaison specifically assigned to Neighborhood Watch groups. They are responsible for training leaders, block captains and other group members on activities like setting goals and reporting suspicious or criminal activity.

How to Start a Neighborhood Watch

1. Determine the area you want to protect 
Traditionally, the region you want to organize is considered the neighborhood. As the area grows, the reach and influence of the Neighborhood Watch becomes greater. If you are leading the organizing process, you should find friendly and committed volunteers to assist you. To prevent the Watch from spreading too thin, assign one person to every eight to 10 households. You will have to arrange a schedule to make sure someone is on patrol every night.

2. Contact Your Local Sheriff’s Office 
The police department or Sheriff’s office should immediately be contacted when you decide to create a Neighborhood Watch. Set up a meeting with representatives of state and local law enforcement agencies to discuss the Watch’s objectives, ground rules and safety policies.

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3. Maintain Interest
Now that your Neighborhood Watch is organized, maintaining consistent patrols and administrative tasks are crucial. Keep all members interested by holding weekly meetings, summer picnics or creating a community newsletter.

Have any tips on starting your own neighborhood watch? Be sure to let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Protect America is also on LinkedIn.

Cover photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

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