When you think of protecting your family from crime, you might automatically turn to home security or anti-theft systems and techniques for your home, person and vehicle. While these are great measures, creating strong community bonds is another important part of neighborhood safety. Whether you live in an idyllic suburb or an apartment complex, you can help build a supportive environment that works to keep you and your neighbors safe. Here’s how and why you should create connections:

Two is Better Than One

Having two sets of eyes is a stronger defense than watching your home by yourself. You work, run errands, visit friends and family, and go on vacations, which means you aren’t always inside your house. While your home security system is a great tool for protecting your property, having neighborhood alliances can minimize crime. For example, your next-door neighbor may have noticed someone wandering on your street at night. You may not be aware of such a situation, but your supportive neighbor can alert you and the authorities if danger arises.

Of course, you should repay your neighbor’s diligence by keeping your eyes open as well. Your community will be a safer place with everyone watching out for unusual visitors. The Neighborhood Watch Program relies on this concept. A community that creates a local watch will pair up with police and plan safety programs. For example, members might make a patrol that watches the homes of families who are out of town.

Providing Favors

When you go on vacation, you shouldn’t let your mail pile up or leave your lights off. A strong community with helpful people is a great tool. Ask a trusted neighbor to grab your mail or turn the lights on periodically. In the winter, have them walk up to your door, creating footprints in the snow. Burglars will think someone is home. You may only feel comfortable relying on a neighbor if you trust that person, which is why building community bonds is important.

Get to Know People

Building a community that looks out for its own starts with meeting people. Go around your block or apartment complex and introduce yourself. Get to know those around you to create trust. You may want to hold a neighborhood potluck or block party to get everyone talking. Once you’ve broken the ice, you can invite your neighbors over for a meal or barbecue.

Start a Neighborhood Watch Program

A neighborhood watch group helps to fight crime and keep communities safe. You can introduce such a program to your community by going through a few steps. Of course, meeting people is the first part, which you’ve already accomplished. Next you’ll want to share your idea with others. Hold a community meeting in which you explain the need to start a neighborhood watch. Recruit as many interested people as possible.

Then approach your local police about partnering. Law enforcement officers work with neighborhood watch programs, so it’s important to get the police involved. Hold meeting to discuss community issues and brainstorm ways to solve them. For example, you may realize that your street needs better lighting.

Create groups of people who will lead the charge to solve neighborhood issues. If you need more street lamps, gather a committee of people who will go to the town board and ask for the lights. Don’t let your community’s needs go unsolved. Be sure your neighborhood watch is effective at making changes.

Stay Acquainted

Whether you start a neighborhood watch or simply get to know your neighbors, don’t lose those relationships. Hold monthly meetings and host events that provide opportunities to continue getting to know the people you live near. If you can call your neighbors your friends, you’ll know that you have one another’s backs.

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