Neighborhood watch programs have many benefits beyond reducing crime. From building community to establishing good relationships with local law enforcement to raising property values, these programs have bettered countless communities since the 1950s. They remain an effective way to combat everything from burglaries to street violence. For those interested in making their homes safer, we’ve outlined 6 steps to setting up a successful neighborhood watch.
1. Recruit Members
If crime is an issue in your area, there’s a good chance you don’t know all of your neighbors. The first step to a successful neighborhood watch program is its publicity and recruitment. Decide on a meeting date that would likely work for many people in your community, and go around, knocking on doors, introducing yourself, and leaving fliers. Bringing baked goods, like cookies, is a warm, congenial gesture that can make more people receptive to the message—and hopeful for a more communal neighborhood.
2. Identify the Problems
At the first meeting and subsequent meetings, decide upon what issues people want to address. Statistics gained from police reports can be a sensible, unbiased way to start, though your neighborhood watch should determine its own priorities. Once you know what kind of issues you hope to address, you can know what to look for.
3. Set up an E-mail List
MailChimp and other Internet service providers offer free newsletters, which you can use to send regular updates to every household in your neighborhood. As long as you keep the updates short and sweet and not too frequent, e-mail can keep your community connected and up-to-date.
4. Partner with Law Enforcement and Community Leaders
To be a credible neighborhood watch you need an endorsement from the local sheriff or police station. These partnerships will also make your watch more effective, building healthy relationships with officers already assigned to your area. Finding other community leaders like pastors and members of city council can provide resources, meeting spaces, or new volunteers.
5. Create and Display Signage
Critical to an effective neighborhood watch is its visibility. Criminals are less likely to vandalize or rob from a neighborhood if they know a watch exists there, so make sure many homes on your street display signs announcing your presence.
Once you’ve raised awareness, built up a team of volunteers, partnered with law enforcement, and posted signs, you need to actually watch your neighborhood. Use schedules and create routes for patrolling at different times throughout the day and week. Continue recruiting volunteers and building community. The more visible you are, the more likely others are to participate—and criminals are to stay away.
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