Launched nationally in 1972, Neighborhood Watch counts on citizens partnering with law enforcement to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities, while demonstrating their presence at all times of day and night. (The program took off quickly. In just ten years, data showed that 12 percent of the population was involved in a Neighborhood Watch.) Neighborhood Watch works because it reduces opportunities for crime to occur; it doesn’t rely on altering or changing the criminal’s behavior or motivation.
How to Start a Neighborhood Watch
If you are interested in participating in or starting a neighborhood watch in your community please contact your precinct and speak with the Crime Prevention Officer.
- Work with SPD. Our Crime Prevention Officers will be the source of necessary information and training for your group.
- Hold regular meetings to help residents get to know each other and to decide upon program strategies and activities.
- Consider linking with an existing organization, such as a citizens association, community development office, tenants’ association, or housing authority. They may be able to provide an existing infrastructure you can use. If you live in a smaller neighborhood consider joining with another neighborhood to form a joint neighborhood watch.
- Canvass door-to-door to recruit members.
- Ask people who seldom leave their homes to be “window watchers,” looking out for children and reporting any unusual activities in the neighborhood.
- Translate crime and drug prevention materials into Spanish or other languages needed by non-English speakers in your community. If necessary, have a translator at meetings.
- Sponsor a crime and drug prevention fair at a church hall, temple, shopping mall, or community center.
- Gather the facts about crime in your neighborhood. Check police reports, conduct victimization surveys, and learn residents’ perceptions about crimes. Often residents’ opinions are not supported by facts, and accurate information can reduce the fear of crime.
- Physical conditions, like abandoned cars or overgrown vacant lots, contribute to crime. Sponsor cleanups, encourage residents to beautify the area, and ask them to turn on outdoor lights at night. Work with City or County Code Enforcement to assist with blight issues.
- Work with small businesses to repair rundown storefronts, clean up littered streets, and create jobs for young people.
- Start a block parent program to help children cope with emergencies while walking to and from school or playing in the area.
- Emphasize that watch groups are not vigilantes and should not assume the role of the police. Their duty is to ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring, and to report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the police.