Neighborhood Watch Group – How to Start One in Five Steps

The Neighborhood Watch program is one of the oldest and well-known crime prevention programs in the United States. It has roots that go to the 1960’s when it came to prominence due to an increase in crime rates. It officially began in 1972 with the idea of assisting citizens and law enforcement.

It was started by the National Sheriff’s Association to help neighbors create watch groups. The idea is that community residents participation is a critical element to neighborhood safety, home security and crime prevention. Many eyes watching out for each other is better than one pair of eyes.

In 2002 they joined the “Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs and the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a website” which allows neighborhood watch groups to become more active in homeland security.

Here are five steps to building a neighborhood watch group in your area.

1. Have a meeting with as many of your neighbors as you can get. Not everyone will participate and that’s okay. But invite everyone on your street or in your block. In that meeting discuss their concerns and needs and propose the idea of starting a Neighborhood Watch group.

2. Contact your local law enforcement office and invite them to meet with your group at a time that is convenient for everyone. There is usually someone in your local police department who’s designated to be your point of contact. Law enforcement collaboration is critical to the success of the group. They have knowledge of local crime trends and provide information that is unavailable otherwise. It is a two-way street providing law enforcement with a way to hear concerns of the community.

3. When you work with your law enforcement point of contact, she/he will help you identify patterns of crime in the area so you can develop strategies to address these problems, then you need to appoint a block captain to act as a coordinator.

4. Your local law enforcement contact can train your watch group members on emergency preparedness, emergency response and basic crime prevention techniques not only for crime prevention but for home security as well as personal safety. He may show you how to use home security alarms and signs to your advantage.

5. Every group is different, but you should take steps to have a kickoff event and make the announcement to everybody. Some people have a BBQ on the National Night Out which is a nation-wide Neighborhood Watch event on the second Tuesday in August, some have newsletters, or citizen patrols, emergency drills and other pertinent activities.

The requirements to stay an active watch group are minimal and usually involve training 2 to 3 times a year. It is an activity that is well worth starting in your neighborhood for crime prevention, personal safety and home security.

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