Neighborhood Watch Program is organized to enable the police and the
community to work together to make specific geographical areas more
crime resistant to reduce crime. It is a citizen involvement,
neighborhood and community-based effort, designed to help citizens and
the police or sheriffs’ department in preventing primarily residential
burglaries. In harmony with the philosophy of Community Policing,
Neighborhood Watch encourages strong working relationships between
patrol officers and the citizens they serve.
Watch, Crime Watch, Block Watch, Town Watch, ‑‑ whatever the title, is
one of the most effective and least costly methods to prevent crime and
reduce fear. The Watch idea is adaptable. There are Dormitory Watches,
Park Watches, Apartment Watches, Window Watches, Boat Watches, School
Watches, Realtor Watches, Utility Watches, and Business Watches. A
Watch can be organized around any geographic unit.
and sheriffs’ departments across the country are learning that
community participation in anti‑crime programs is essential. One of the
most effective ways to promote citizen interaction with police is the
sharing of information. Citizen groups determine specific needs or
problems and then share this information with local police. The police
then act on this information and report back to the group on their
progress. This program also works when the police go to public groups
and organizations and make them aware of specific criminal activities,
or the needs of the police department.
Why Organize a Neighborhood Against Crime?
and fear of crime threaten a community’s well‑being. Crime may be right
there scaring everyone off the streets, or just looming on the horizon.
People become afraid to leave their homes, to use streets and parks or
to walk through the neighborhood. Suspicion erupts between the young
and old. Businesses gradually leave. Crime in turn feeds on the social
isolation it creates. Today’s lifestyles ‑‑ many homes where both
parents work, more single parent families, and greater job mobility ‑‑
can contribute to this isolation and weaken communities.
can prevent or break this vicious cycle, and in the process, build
their community into a safer, friendlier, and more caring place to
live. Whatever your neighborhood is like, getting together to fight
crime, violence, and drugs can help create communities where children
can be children and people once isolated by crime and fear, can enjoy
being a part of a thriving neighborhood.
Neighborhood Watch program’s success is hinged on achieving and
sustaining an appropriate level of community involvement to a point at
which the neighborhood realizes a reduction and/or achieves prevention
of residential burglaries and other residential area crime. Where they
have been instituted, neighborhood watch programs have had a measurable
effect of substantially reducing the fear of crime, encouraging crime
reporting, stimulating members’ involvement in crime prevention,
inhibiting drug trafficking, and spurring beautification activities.
Statistics and criminals alike verify that when neighbors organize, the
opportunity for crime is drastically reduced.
What Are the Goals of Neighborhood Watch?
The goals of Neighborhood Crime Watch are:
increase community awareness, enhance individuals’ power of
observation, and encourage mutual assistance and concern among
neighbors to reduce crime. The crimes normally targeted are burglary
and other property crimes prevalent to neighborhoods. Groups can obtain
information and assistance from police and other government agencies
that can help to improve living conditions.
allow the concerns of the neighborhood to be presented in a unified
voice to both the police department and to other governmental agencies.
Groups can inform community leaders on programs and actions that the
“people” support. When people work together as neighbors, they create a
better place to live for all of them, as a genuine neighborhood.
develop a neighborhood action program where neighbors help each other
by watching each other’s homes and reporting suspicious persons in
their neighborhoods to the police department. They allow the police to
train citizens on how to be pro-active by preventing crime and how to
recognize and report criminal activities. Then if something suspicious
occurs, you will know how to report it to the police and how to notify
you neighbors, alerting them against further intrusion. With a
heightened awareness and a “sense of community” achieved, criminals
will find it much harder to work unnoticed in your area.
train citizens in various personal and physical security strategies and
help them in making their home more secure. Most crimes are
opportunistic and can be reduced or removed by simple crime prevention
techniques. It provides the police a method to give the community
information on home and personal security. The three main things a
resident can do to reduce the risk of burglary are:
- the proper use of good locks
- participate in Operation Identification
- participate in a Neighborhood Watch organization.
only used as a strong tool to fight crime, but also as a strong social
organization. They can also be utilized to engage citizens in other
promote awareness techniques and reporting crime but not the physical
confrontation of criminals. Watch groups are not vigilantes and do not
assume the role of the police. Citizens are only asked to be more
alert, observant, and caring and to serve as extra eyes and ears for
- To constantly expand and change to meet the needs of the community
Neighborhood Watch Procedure
residents, a community organization, or a law enforcement agency can
initiate the effort to organize a Watch. Community members can be given
the following instructions on organizing their Neighborhood Watch group.
How Does One Start a Neighborhood Watch?
a Neighborhood Watch is a challenge. The first step is to find out the
initial interest level in your neighborhood. Any attempt at beginning
an organized Watch group will not be successful unless a certain level
of community interest exists. Concentrate your initial effort by
organizing those neighbors with whom you have occasional contact. For
example, if your block is mostly single family dwellings, invite
neighbors on both sides of the street and adjacent corners. If you live
in an apartment or condominium, include everyone in your building and
in the adjacent buildings as space permits. It is strongly suggested
that you start by speaking with neighbors on your block to obtain a
feel for how many people may be interested in attending Neighborhood
Watch training. Obtain a neighborhood map and clearly define the
boundaries for your watch area. Start small, less than fifty homes, and
you can expand as you become more organized. Citizen interest and
involvement are crucial to the success of this program.
talk to your neighbors and tell them that you are starting a
Neighborhood Watch and that you need their participation. Enlist the
help of other neighbors to help you. Form a small planning committee to
discuss needs, the level of interest, possible challenges, and the
Watch idea. Introduce yourselves to other neighbors by going
door‑to‑door. The following tips are suggested to encourage the
neighbors to join you:
your neighbors about any recent crime activity in the area. They may be
unaware! Ask the police department for a summary of local crime
activity to share with your neighbors.
- Ask which evenings your neighbors are available. Generally, neighborhood meetings are conducted at
7:00 or 7:30 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
this opportunity to get acquainted on a first‑name basis. This is vital
to the success of your Neighborhood Watch! Exchange phone numbers. Tell
your neighbors that you will notify them when a meeting is scheduled.
a substantial amount of community interest is expressed, it would be
time to contact the police or sheriff’s department or local crime
prevention organization for help in training members in home security,
and reporting skills and for information on local crime patterns. You
should indicate approximately how many households your Neighborhood
the facts about crime in your neighborhood. Check police reports, do
victimization surveys, and learn residents’ perceptions about crime.
Often facts do not support residents’ opinions, and accurate
information can reduce fear of crime.
setting the date, select and secure a location, close to your area, to
hold the meeting. Local churches, libraries and schools are usually
very cooperative. Be sure to select a meeting place that is accessible
to people with disabilities.
the meeting is very important! Be creative with handouts and personal
or phone contacts. Let everyone know when and where the meeting will be
held. Create flyers that announce the date, time, location and topic of
your meeting. Neighborhood Watch meeting invitations and the
Neighborhood Watch pamphlets may be available from the police or
Coordinator or Block Captain will then fill out and deliver
invitations, pamphlets, and a cover letter to each resident in the
targeted area. Distribute the fliers, in person, seven to ten days
beforehand. Have neighbors help pass out the flyers!
- Two or three days before the meeting, remind your neighbors in person or by phone.
first meeting is basically a social event and an information sharing
time. The officer, who will be speaking to your group, will tell you
about your local law enforcement agency and how Neighborhood Watch can
help your community. The primary goal of the first meeting is to gauge
the expected participation in the project and to create an
understanding for the need for Neighborhood Watch.
the first meeting you will need to begin selecting the Neighborhood
Watch Coordinator and the Block Captains. You will need either a single
individual to fill the Coordinator’s position or a team. You will then
need one Block Captain for certain number of homes (i.e., every ten
Coordinator should call a meeting with the Block Captains to plan which
form you will use to register the members and to select a target date
to officially start the Neighborhood Watch.
Captains should attempt to register every home in your assigned block.
Compile a master list of all members. Prepare a neighborhood map
showing names, addresses, and phone numbers of participating households
and distribute to members. Block captains will keep this map up to
date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and occasionally
rechecking with ongoing participants.
a regular means of communicating with Watch members—e.g., newsletter,
telephone tree, e‑mall, fax, etc. Get the information out quickly.
Share all kinds of news to quash rumors.
your group has finished the initial organizing, you need to have a day
to officially start the Neighborhood Watch. This will be the Kick Off
recommend that you pick a weekend or evening when everyone in the group
will be invited to a special event such as a block party or a community
rally. It never hurts to have food and special events planned.
to have the meeting in or near your Watch area. This will draw
attention to your group and will encourage others in the area to want
to become a part of your program.
will need to invite a local government representative and your local
law enforcement officers who patrol your area. This will give you a
chance to meet them and to tell them your problems and to make special
may also wish to invite the media to cover your events. This is a good
way to tell the community about your program and how your neighborhood
is fighting back against crime. Work with local media ‑‑ newspapers,
radio, TV stations ‑‑ to publicize events and thank supporters.
- Have the big Kick Off event and begin the process of helping to reduce crime in your community.
the regularly scheduled meetings address immediate crime problems,
focus on home security, and build neighborhood cohesion. Such topics
- bias‑motivated violence
- rape prevention
- crime in schools
- drug abuse
- domestic violence
- gangs, etc.
holding periodic crime prevention meetings is important, gathering only
to discuss “gloom and doom” topics may cause a loss of interest.
Gradually move into other areas such as:
- educating residents about child protection
- child care before and after school
- self‑protection tactics
- recreational activities for young people
- victim services
- isolation of the elderly, etc.
· Explore circumstances in the community that might contribute to crime such as:
- abandoned houses
- the physical design of buildings
- lack of recreation for youth
- traffic patterns
- few jobs or recreational opportunities for teenagers
- lack of affordable housing
- drug trafficking, etc.
Organize regular meetings that focus on current issues. Neighborhood
Watch groups help build pride and serves as a springboard for efforts
that address community concerns such as these. The group works with the
police or sheriff for long‑range solutions to the identified problems.
with the local government or law enforcement agency to put up
Neighborhood Watch signs, usually after at least 50 percent of all
households are enrolled.
continued interest and involvement of your neighbors are crucial to the
success of your Neighborhood Watch. Typically, Neighborhood Watch
groups organize to respond to an immediate threat ‑‑ a series of rapes,
a sharp increase in burglaries, rising fear of street crime. It is an
unfortunate fact that when a neighborhood crime crisis goes away, in
many situations so does enthusiasm for Neighborhood Watch. To maintain
the interest of your group:
linking with an existing organization, such as a civic organization,
citizens’ association, community development office, tenants’
association, housing authority.
a variety of activities into your Neighborhood Watch provides a welcome
change of pace. Don’t forget social events that give neighbors a chance
to know each other.
You and your neighbors can participate in the
following social activities:
Parties: Neighbors arrange to have the street blocked off from vehicle
traffic to allow an outdoor party. A “pot luck” meal and games for all
ages set the stage for a party. Consider inviting the police or sheriff
and fire department to present a display or demonstration.
A summer picnic is a sure crowd pleaser. When the weather is moderate,
an outdoor or backyard picnic is a fun way to get together with your
neighbors. Consider inviting a guest speaker to this event as well.
Potluck Dinner: A pleasant change of pace takes place when a neighbor
holds a gathering where residents bring their favorite foods and
beverage items for sampling.
- Sporting events: a volleyball or softball game to get everyone together may work.
Dinner: A great way to mingle with neighbors is to plan a dinner where
neighbors prepare foods from a planned menu. Each menu item from salad
to desert is served for guests to serve themselves.
- Pool Party: Residents with pools become most popular if they invite neighbors over for a swim especially during the summer heat.
Warming: Introduce yourself to new neighbors and invite them to your
next gathering. They may volunteer to hold a meeting in their new home.
Arranging these types of activities fosters a sense of cohesiveness
among your neighbors. New neighbors will feel welcomed and everyone
will get to know each other.
starting a program where locations are identified as “safe houses” for
kids to go to when they are in trouble. One example of this is a
McGruff House. A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for
children in an emergency or frightening situations. Volunteers must
meet specific standards, including a law enforcement record check.
Programs are established locally as a partnership among law
enforcement, schools, and community organizations.
- Initiate a gang prevention task force to assess those problems and develop prevention strategies or solutions.
- Sponsor cleanups of the neighborhood where residents are encouraged to beautify the area.
- Participate in events like National Night Out that gives neighbors a chance to get together for a common cause.
the success of the effort and recognize volunteers’ contributions
through such events as awards, annual dinners, and parties.
- Create pride in the organization by producing such items as pins, T-shirts, hats, or coffee mugs with the group’s name.
Organization of a Neighborhood Watch Group
The Neighborhood Watch Coordinator’s responsibilities may include:
- Act as liaison to the local law enforcement agency. The Coordinator passes
non emergency information from the group directly to the Crime
Prevention Office. The Coordinator also receives information from the
Crime Prevention Office and passes it to the Block Captains.
- Coordinates the activities of Block Captains and Block Watchers participating in the program.
- Organizing the date, time, and location for group meetings and for information sharing meetings with the Block Captains.
tips and information on suspected criminal activities within the group
area and looks for patterns or for potential suspects. This information
is received from Block Captains who create written documentation of
Block Captain is the primary link in the group’s chain of command.
There should be a defined limit to the number of homes (i.e., ten)
assigned per Block Captain. The duties include a wide range of simple
tasks. The Block Captain’s responsibilities may include:
- Meet each resident in your assigned area and offer to register them in the group.
regular meetings with the area members. The Block Captains explain the
program both to those neighbors at the meeting and to those who did not
attend the meeting, discussing the requirements of the program
including the need for each resident to commit to reporting crime.
- Cooperates and helps the Coordinator.
- Maintain an emergency phone list of all your assigned residents. Maintains records of these participating residents.
available to pass on information about criminal activities in your
area. (Note: A Block Captain may be called late at night if one of
their residents spots suspicious activities.)
- Lending out Operation Identification engravers.
information to the group’s Coordinator and activate the phone tree if
you receive information on a suspect in your area. (The “phone tree”
involves calling members and informing them if an active incident is going on in the area).
Block Captain also coordinates assistance programs if there are any
special needs in their area and may set up social events for their
members to become involved in.
- Distributes the Neighborhood Watch pamphlets and other crime prevention literature.
Neighborhood Watch members are the most important part of any group.
Being a Watch member is not a hard or time-consuming job. It mostly
involves becoming aware of activities in your area and taking time to
a presentation on Neighborhood Watch by either the Crime Prevention
Officer or a trained Block Captain, thus promising to report crime.
- Cooperate and assist the Block Captain.
- Volunteer with your area Neighborhood Watch.
- Review the Neighborhood Watch pamphlets and crime prevention literature.
simple crime prevention measures to avoid unnecessary crimes. Target
harden your home and car by using these proven simple techniques.
- Participate in Operation Identification.
local police or sheriff asks you and your neighbors to get together and
to get to know each other. As you become more familiar with your
neighbors, their cars, etc., you become more observant about what is
“normal” for your neighborhood. Then, if you see someone that is out of
place, or a car that is suspicious, call the police or sheriff and
allow them to check it out. Neighborhood Watch is not about you taking
police action, that is the job of law enforcement. It is about being a
your neighbor’s homes and report suspicious persons in your
neighborhoods to your local law enforcement agency. Report the non
emergency activities to your Block Captain by phone or on a 3x5 card.
These may include:
- abandoned cars
- overgrown vacant lots, etc.
or a crime in progress should be reported to the police or sheriff
emergency line (usually 911) and then to the Block Captain. Many people
don’t want to bother the police because they are afraid that it may not
be a real emergency or that they may be embarrassed if their suspicions
turn out to be unfounded. The police would much rather be called out to
investigate than to be called after a crime has been committed.
- someone screaming or shouting for help.
- someone in need of medical attention.
- a person running, especially if carrying something of value.
- anyone being forced into a vehicle.
- a person exhibiting unusual mental or physical symptoms.
- persons making a quick change of vehicles.
- burglaries, robberies, thefts, auto break-ins, etc. in progress.
- someone looking into windows of homes or parked cars.
- apparent drug trafficking.
- unusual noises.
- apparent businesses transactions conducted from a vehicle.
- property being taken out of closed businesses or houses where no one is at home.
- open or broken doors or windows to a home or business.
- cars, vans, or trucks moving slowly and without lights with no apparent destination, or repeating the same action.
- a stranger sitting in a car or stopping to talk to a child, etc.
- When contacting your local law enforcement agency:
- provide them your name, address and telephone number.
- briefly describe the event ‑‑ what happened, when, where, and who was involved.
- tell them as soon as possible if medical assistance is needed.
the suspect: sex, race, age, height, weight, hair color, clothing,
distinctive characteristics such as beard, mustache, scars, or accent.
- tell them if weapons were involved.
- tell the suspect’s last known direction of travel.
the vehicle if one was involved: color, make, model, year, license
plate, and special features such as stickers, dents, or decals.
willing to serve as an acting Block Captain in the absence of your area
Block Captain or to help the Block Captain with projects in your block.
- Attend monthly or quarterly meetings of the group.
How Can a Law Enforcement Agency Assist Neighborhood Watch Groups?
participation requirements for the program. This may include a minimum
participant level of a certain percent (i.e., 50%, 60%, etc.) of the
occupied homes in a community to be considered a Neighborhood Watch
neighborhood. This percentage of households required to participate may
also be used to determine if stickers and/or signs are allowed to be
- Provide the Coordinator or Block Captain with Neighborhood Watch meeting invitations and the Neighborhood Watch pamphlets.
- Provide the Coordinator or Block Captain with Operation Identification engravers and participation stickers.
Neighborhood Watch signs for posting in participating neighborhoods or
provide a means for the neighborhood to purchase their own.
the Neighborhood Watch meetings with the Coordinator, Block Captain and
residents. At the neighborhood training, the Crime Prevention Officer
will provide information on crime in your area, ways to make your home
more secure, Operation Identification, personal safety issues,
Community Policing, and when to summon the police or sheriff.
a Crime Prevention Newsletter to distribute to all of the Watch groups
with articles on home and personal security, local crime bulletins, and
- Be responsible for the development and training of new Watch groups.
a variety of incentives for Block Captains. These may include a special
recognition from the police or sheriff’s department every year. In
addition, Captains could be eligible to receive special awards for
organizing a creative event or holding the most meetings.
- Maintain records of current Watch Coordinators and Block Captains.
Neighborhood Watch makes a difference!
PCSO Community Service Officer (386) 326-7253