If you’ve been thinking about starting a neighborhood watch group, I’m here to give you that little extra push you need to get started. For those of you who are unsure about neighborhood watch groups, let me tell you why you need one.
Forget the saying that fences make great neighbors; your fence can’t notify the police of suspicious activity around your home while you’re at work. (At least my fence can’t.) Luckily for me, my neighbors pick up the slack of my ill-performing fence and are more likely to spot out-of-the-ordinary activities around my home than a police officer is. Think about it. A police officer drives by a house and sees an open door. I drive by that same house and I know something’s not right because I know the Millers won’t be home until next Saturday. Get what I’m saying? And think about how much safer your neighborhood would be if your neighbors were part of an organized watch group that could prevent and even stop crime in your neighborhood.
1. Round Up Volunteers: Tell your neighbors that you’d like to start a watch group and ask a few of them to volunteer to help you get it started. Once you’ve recruited a few volunteers and you’ve collectively determined the area you want to include in the neighborhood watch, select a time and place the volunteers can meet for your first meeting.
2. Notify Neighbors: Let your neighbors know about the neighborhood watch meeting. It’s best to let them know about the meeting at least a week in advance so they can plan to attend. Remind your neighbors of the meeting three days before it takes place by giving them a phone call or leaving them a small note on their door.
3. Contact Authorities: Call your local police or sheriff’s department and ask if they can send a representative to speak at your neighborhood watch meeting.
4. Create Neighborhood Map: Organize a neighborhood map that shows the watch area and lists homeowner names with their contact info (address, phone number, email address) to have available at your meeting.
5. Conduct First Meeting: Host your neighborhood watch meeting and explain what a neighborhood watch is. As a group, identify some of the community safety concerns and have the local authority representative provide safety tips. Have the rep also discuss how to report suspicious activity. Gauge the interest level of the attendees to help you recruit a neighborhood watch coordinator and block captains.
You’ll want to make this meeting somewhat of a social event so neighbors can meet and become familiar with one another. Also be sure the location is big enough to accommodate your guests and, if needed, plan on audio and visual aids.
6. Join An Online Safety Community: Receive additional support for your community watch group by joining an online community (for example, USA On Watch) that provides resources and aids.
7. Keep Momentum: Maintain interest to keep you neighbors engaged and participating in your neighborhood watch by distributing monthly neighborhood watch newsletters or turning meetings into family friendly events.