Neighborhood Watch is one of the most effective and least costly ways to prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime. These programs fight the isolation and separation that crime creates and feeds upon. It forges bonds among area residents and businesses, helps reduce burglaries and robberies, and improves relations between police and the communities they serve.Crime prevention programs of this kind seek to involve community members in the “watch” function of the police. Organized citizens are not vigilantes, rather, they serve as additional eyes and ears. The program calls upon residents to step forward and assist the police in organizing the community into a cohesive unit working toward the goal of building a safer, crime-free neighborhood. Neighborhood Watch groups discuss neighborhood crime problems with the objective of developing solutions Watch members report suspicious activity, make contact with new residents, inform people about local ordinances and otherwise help to build a strong sense of community.
The continuity and success of the Neighborhood Watch program hinges on the person referred to as the Beat Captain. The "Beat Captain" is a community member who acts as a liaison between those who work and/or live in a particular area, and the officer assigned to that area. The Genoa Police Department utilizes “beat” officers who are responsible for liaison in particular geographic areas of the city.
The beat officer is a critical part of this program providing the vital link that helps unite the police department to the particular neighborhood. They are also are instrumental in mobilizing neighborhoods through creative problem-solving strategies, crime prevention, and quality of life enhancement programs.
Beat Officers are responsible for:
- Monitoring crime trends in their Beat.
- Working with the Block Captain and residents to develop program goals to be accomplished
- Acting as liaisons with other officers to keep them informed of crime trends and situations unique to the neighborhood.
Beat Officers develop directed patrol plans that include strategies for dealing with recurrent crime concerns. Sincere and continuous interaction between the police and the community enhances the quality of life and deters crime within the Basic Car area. Senior Lead Officers take the lead in establishing and maintaining this police-community partnership.
The ABC’s of Neighborhood Watch
You can form a Watch group around any geographical unit: a block, neighborhood, apartment complex, park, or business area. A few concerned residents, a community organization, local elected officials, or a law enforcement agency can spearhead the effort to organize a Neighborhood Watch. Any community resident can join — young or old, single or married, renter or homeowner.
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 department. 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 other local concerns.
When a group decides to form a Neighborhood Watch, it:
- Contacts 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
- Selects a coordinator and block captains who are responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members
- Recruits members, keeps up-to-date on new residents and makes special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people
- Works with local government and law enforcement to put up Neighborhood Watch signs, usually after at least 50 percent of all households in a neighborhood are enrolled
What Neighborhood Watch Members Look For
- Someone screaming or shouting for help
- Someone looking into windows and parked cars
- Unusual noises
- Property being taken out of houses where no one is at home or a business is closed
- 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 department. Talk about the problem with your neighbors.
- Give your name and address.
- Briefly describe the event - what happened, when, where, and who was involved.
- Describe the suspect: sex and race, age, height, weight, hair color, clothing, distinctive characteristics such as beard, mustache, scars, tattoos or accent.
- Describe the vehicle if one was involved: color, make, model, year, license plate, and special features such as stickers, dents, or decals.
Keeping your Neighborhood Watch Group Active
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, "hate" or 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). A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening 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.