How to initiate a neighborhood crime watch
By Lou Carlozo | STM Custom Studios April 24, 2014 11:30AM
Updated: May 6, 2014 10:52AM
There's no question that neighborhood crime watch programs work. Police can always use extra eyes and ears, and a study by the nonprofit Campbell Collaboration found that areas covered by neighborhood watch schemes experienced a reduction in crime of between 16 and 26 percent.
More than 40 percent of U.S. residents live in areas covered by watches, according to Campbell statistics. But that still leaves plenty of room for improvement in two key areas: establishing new watches, and ensuring the effectiveness of existing ones. Here are six important steps for setting up a program in your neighborhood.
Recruit neighbors for a planning committee
Prior to beginning a watch program, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) recommends forming a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss the needs, levels of interest and possible challenges the program may encounter.
Plan your first meeting
Once you've assembled a core group of interested residents, it's time to plan your first meeting. Use door-to-to-door fliers and phone lists, and contact the local police or sheriff's department. Inviting a law enforcement officer to your first meeting can help establish coordination with local deputies.
Set up your infrastructure
The first steps at the neighborhood meeting should be to elect a chairperson and block captains, the NCPC states. Make a special effort to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people, and establish means whereby watch members can reach each other, including phone and email lists, or a map that highlights participating households.
Learn and practice the right behaviors
Neighborhood watch members should not act as police. Working with guidance from local law enforcement, participants can learn to observe and report crimes that might affect a particular area while also informing neighbors.
Post signs at neighborhood entry points
In many communities, law enforcement will provide the necessary signs, or at least help procure them. Advertising a neighborhood watch can not only help recruit new members but also deter crime.
To learn more about neighborhood watch programs in Lake County, visit the Buncich Boosters website. Sheriff John Buncich has worked for three terms to ensure Lake County has active and responsible neighborhood watch programs. He is currently running for his fourth term as Lake County, Ind. Sheriff.