The ABCs of Neighborhood Watch
Any community resident can join — young and old, single and married, renter and home owner.
A few concerned residents, a community organization, or a law enforcement agency can spearhead the effort to organize a Watch.
Members learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighborhood, and report activities that raise their suspicions to the police or sheriff’s office.
You can form a Watch group around any geographical unit: a block, apartment, park, business area, public housing complex, office, marina.
Watch groups are not vigilantes. They are extra eyes and ears for reporting crime and helping neighbors. Neighborhood Watch helps build pride and serves as a springboard for efforts that address community concerns such as recreation for youth, child care, and affordable housing.
Forming a Neighborhood Watch is a challenge. Here are a few tips to get your group started.
Contact the police department or local crime prevention organization for help in training members in home security and reporting skills and for information on local crime patterns.
Select a coordinator and block captains who are responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members.
Recruit members, keeping up-to-date on new residents and making special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people.
Work with local government or law enforcement to put up Neighborhood Watch signs, usually after at least 50 percent of all households are enrolled.
Neighbors Look For…
- Someone screaming or shouting for help
- Someone looking into windows and parked cars
- Unusual noises
- Property being taken out of closed businesses or houses where no one is at home
- Cars, vans, or trucks moving slowly with no apparent destination, or without lights
- Anyone being forced into a vehicle
- A stranger sitting in a car or stopping to talk to a child
- Abandoned cars
Report these incidents to the police or sheriff’s department. Talk with your neighbors about the problem.
How to Report
- Give your name and address.
- Briefly describe the event — what happened, when, where, and who was involved.
- Describe the suspect: sex, race, age, height, weight, hair color, clothing, distinctive characteristics such as beard, mustache, scars, or accent.
- Describe the vehicle if one was involved: color, make, model, year, license plate, and special features such as stickers, dents, or decals.
It’s an unfortunate fact that when a neighborhood crime crisis goes away, so does enthusiasm for Neighborhood Watch. Work to keep your Watch group a vital force for community well-being.
Organize regular meetings that focus on current issues such as drug abuse, bias-motivated violence, crime in schools, child care before and after school, recreational activities for young people, and victim services.
Organize community patrols to walk around streets or apartment complexes and alert police to crime and suspicious activities and identify problems needing attention. People in cars with cellular phones or CB radios can patrol.
Adopt a park or school playground. Pick up litter, repair broken equipment, paint over graffiti.
Work with local building code officials to require dead bolt locks, smoke alarms, and other safety devices in new and existing homes and commercial buildings. Work with parent groups and schools to start a McGruff House or other block parent program (to help children in emergency situations.)
Publish a newsletter that gives prevention tips and local crime news, recognizes residents of all ages who have made a difference, and highlights community events.
Don’t forget social events that give neighbors a chance to know each other — a block party, potluck dinner, volleyball or softball game, picnic.