The National Safety Council has named June National Safety Month, and each week during the month has a different theme related to helping people stay safe and avoid injury. The theme for this week is “watch out for danger”, and in honor of that occasion we’d like to highlight some of the ways a neighborhood watch program can help you watch out for dangers in your community and improve your home security.
In its modern form in the U.S., the concept of a neighborhood watch dates back to 1972 when the National Sheriff’s Association created the National Neighborhood Watch program. The program was created to empower local communities to help law enforcement agencies fight crime by training people how to spot and report suspicious activity. Since that time, the program has undergone several enhancements, such as after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when the role of neighborhood watch programs was expanded to include anti-terrorism measures.
How Neighborhood Watch Programs Reduce Crime
There are many ways that neighborhood watch programs help reduce crime, but in essence the reason they work is that they help create a social structure in a community so that residents feel that they are part of a team working towards a common goal. Some neighborhoods have this sense of community naturally, but in other cases—especially urban neighborhoods with high turnover and mixed ethnic populations—it is harder to create organically. This is the problem the National Neighborhood Watch program is designed to solve.
Here are some of the specific ways that the program helps fight crime:
Encourages pride and involvement in the community: People care more about the things they own, and so by giving residents of a neighborhood a sense of ownership, neighborhood watch programs make it more likely that people will be actively involved in the security of a community.
Increased Vigilance: Simply by making residents more aware of their surroundings and what signs of criminal activity to be on the lookout for, neighborhood watch programs help reduce the opportunity for crime.
Better communication: Through partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch programs make it more likely that information about potential security problems gets to the people who can do something about it.
Emergency training: Programs that train residents how to respond if an emergency or problem does occur can help reduce the impact or severity of the problem.
How to start a neighborhood watch program
If you are interested in starting a neighborhood watch program in your community, there are several steps you can take. First, talk to your neighbors and find out how many of them would be willing to participate in the program. Then, contact your local law enforcement agency and let them know you are interested in starting a program. Schedule a meeting to discuss your goals and concerns about the neighborhood, and decide how your group will communicate, when it will meet, and what structure it will use. You can read more about how to start a neighborhood watch group on the National Neighborhood Watch website, www.nwn.org.