By Michael Janich, Personal Defense World
One of the most effective ways to protect your home and your family is to institute a Neighborhood Watch program. When it comes to crime prevention, early detection and reporting, there is definitely strength in numbers, so the more eyes you have watching, the safer you’ll be. And since you and your neighbors know your area better than anyone else, you are the ones best qualified to notice anything unusual.
Neighborhood Watch programs also help you to know your neighbors better and promote a stronger sense of community and cooperation. A strong, tightly knit community is a tough place for criminals to do business and, therefore, a strong deterrent to crime as well.
Starting a Neighborhood Watch program is a very straightforward process, and there are many resources available to help guide you through it. The best and easiest place to start is with a quick internet search for “neighborhood watch” and the name of your town or community. It’s quite possible that a Neighborhood Watch program already exists for your area, so you would simply need to contact the Watch leaders to join the current program. If a program doesn’t exist, you’ll find that many local law enforcement agencies provide step-by-step guides that walk you through the process and offer contact information for key personnel in their agency and the local government. If an area-specific guide isn’t available for your community, the following steps will help you understand the basics of the process.
Canvass Your Neighborhood
Take some time to go door to door and talk to your neighbors. Briefly explain the value of a Neighborhood Watch program and emphasize that it does not require frequent meetings or an exorbitant time investment. Also make sure that they understand that a Neighborhood Watch does not ask anyone to take personal risks to prevent crime, and that the responsibility for apprehending criminals will remain entirely with your local police department.
Recruit Key Personnel
As you talk to your neighbors, take note of those who are enthusiastic about the program. Get their contact information for future reference and consider enlisting their help in your initial efforts to canvass the neighborhood. That will reduce the amount of personal time you will need to invest in the process and set a strong precedent for cooperation and teamwork when building up your community watch program.
Once you have identified enough motivated individuals, organize a basic structure of key personnel. If possible, identify a block captain for each block or similar geographic unit in your neighborhood and select a coordinator to represent the group’s interest to your local police department.
Involve Your Local Police Department
Request a meeting between your local law enforcement department and your newly organized neighborhood watch. Plan the meeting at least two weeks in advance to make scheduling easier and to allow time for word to spread in your community. This is a great opportunity to learn about reporting skills, crime trends and local requirements for establishing a Neighborhood Watch. It also gives you the opportunity to get to know your local officers and ask them questions.
Expand Your Network
Once you’ve established a basic leadership structure for your organization, use it to recruit members and establish a communication network. Coordinate with local civic groups to spread the word about the Watch and make a concerted effort to involve elderly and retired residents, as well as stay-at-home parents who can provide consistent “coverage”—even during daytime work hours. You may also want to circulate a petition during the recruiting process to formally document public support for the Watch. Depending upon the policy in your community, petition signatures may be required to post Neighborhood Watch signs in your area.
Develop An Action Plan
Once your Neighborhood Watch is underway, you should schedule meetings with your members to define guidelines and goals. Periodic meetings are also an excellent way to share pertinent information with Watch members, including training from local law enforcement, information on crime trends, or other significant incidents in your area.
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