A neighborhood watch can be a great way to make your neighborhood a little safer. If a person or property is being harmed, just the couple of minutes that an on-the-spot observer can save could mean the difference between help arriving in time or being way too late.
Another helpful aspect of a neighborhood watch is its potential ability to stop problems before they start. With a neighborhood watch, people are incredibly close to the action at all times, making it easier to recognize suspicious behavior and other potential problems.
Forming a neighborhood watch isn’t as hard as you might think. Follow these steps to establish a watch for your neighborhood:
-See if others want to participate
-Identify pre-existing problems to solve
-Bring in law enforcement
-Bring neighbors together
The first step is to make sure you have enough individuals interested in forming a watch. A neighborhood watch is a community effort, not a solo one. You’ll want a substantial number of people to make your neighborhood watch work properly.
The best way to encourage individuals to join a watch is simply to go around your neighborhood and talk about the inherent dangers that may be lurking. A number of resources exist to help you create flyers that let people know you’re planning to start a neighborhood watch.
Request that people let you know if they’re interested. Or just see how many people seem receptive to the idea. (The side benefit is that you can take a deeper look into anyone that seems wholeheartedly against it.) To help convince people of the benefits, you should:
Recognize Problems in Your Community
You don’t need to have an active crime problem to start a neighborhood watch; preemptive tactics work well when it comes to community policing efforts. But there may be important problems that your community isn’t yet addressing. This can include crime issues, or it can just be bringing your neighbors together.
Other problems include the potential hurdles that you’ll have to overcome to establish a watch. If you live in an urban area, for example, it can be hard to form a watch because neighborhoods may tend to be made up of self-isolated apartment complexes.
Write down anything you can think of, so you’re more prepared to build a plan.
Contact Local Law Enforcement
Neighborhood watches always work closely with local law enforcement. There aren’t usually any specific legal requirements. But letting law enforcement know you’re planning to start a watch can help officials work with you to police the area more effectively. In addition, getting an endorsement from law enforcement in your area can increase the credibility of your neighborhood watch, making it more likely that people will join.
You may want to ask local law enforcement if they’ll meet with you before you even hold a meeting in your neighborhood. In a meeting, they can let you know if they have any experience with neighborhood watches, if they’re willing to help you track crime in your neighborhood, and if they know of any ways to overcome the problems you’ve already recognized. They also may be able to tell you if there are any persons of interest in your neighborhood.
Bring Your Neighbors Together
The last step is to figure out a meeting time and invite all your neighbors to come. Places of worship may be willing to give you a space and time to meet, or your local law enforcement office may even have the ability to do so. Make it a social event; combine a neighborhood event with the neighborhood watch meeting. And let everyone know there’ll be time to get to know everyone at your meeting.
Before you decide who to invite to this meeting, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is really a well-intentioned neighbor. You don’t want someone who’s a sex offender, drug dealer, or has a violent criminal history to be part of the watch.
Check On Your Neighbors
To try and figure out your neighbors’ status, you can perform a criminal records search on anyone interested in becoming part of the neighborhood watch. Once you know more facts about those people and their backgrounds, the watch may actually be a good way to keep an eye on them.
The last thing you want in your watch circle is an individual who could be part of the crime problem. Whenever a new person moves into your neighborhood or requests to join the neighborhood watch, use a public records search site like PeopleFinders to perform a criminal records check and try to make sure the person is safe to be around.
A neighborhood watch can make things safer. But as the leader, you still need to do your due diligence.
Creating a neighborhood watch is a group effort that requires the community to pitch in. By getting in contact with your local law enforcement, being the one to encourage participation, and listening to people’s concerns, you can establish an effective neighborhood watch that keeps everyone safer.
For even more ideas on how to stay safe, be sure to check out the PeopleFinders blog.
image attribution: Syda Productions – stock.adobe.com