Use these five simple steps to start your own Neighborhood Watch Program.
Your home should be a safe, sacred space for you and your family. You deserve to feel at peace in the place you live, and you want a neighborhood that feels safe and peaceful too. If you’re a homeowner, you’re also financially invested in your home’s security. Unfortunately, you can’t control everything that happens outside your house, just as you can’t be home 24 hours a day to protect your home from outside threats. That’s where Neighborhood Watch Programs come in.
When outside threats are inevitable, outside help is invaluable. Starting your own Neighborhood Watch is a great way to turn your neighbors into a team of allies, committed to improving one another’s safety by minimizing threats in the area. Follow these simple steps to get started.
- Talk to your neighbors.
Before you start printing flyers or scheduling meetings, go door-to-door and speak with your neighbors about your idea. Do they think your neighborhood needs a watch program? How many streets should this program include? Are they interested in volunteering? You’ll need at least one volunteer for every ten households, so entice interested neighbors with a promise of snacks and guest speakers at meetings, and float a few dates (usually weekday evenings) to see if everyone will be available. Most importantly, ask every single neighbor about their safety concerns, including red flags they’ve noticed, fears they have, and what they want from a Neighborhood Watch program.
- Contact your local police department.
Do you have enough people on board? Now it’s time to start reaching out to your local allies and organizing the first meeting. Contact the Sheriff’s office assigned to your neighborhood, and explain your plans to start a Neighborhood Watch program. These programs are not a substitute for actual police work, so it’s important to understand what the cops needs from you and vice versa. Police officers have invaluable knowledge about preventing and detecting crime, and most departments are happy to send a representative to answer questions and share tips at local meetings. Make sure you understand exactly how the police want you to handle possible crimes, from calling 911 to reporting traffic concerns and more.
- Prepare maps, flyers, and a website or email list.
Your first meeting will be the official launch of your Neighborhood Watch program. Give yourself at least a few weeks to prepare, because you must create a presentation for the meeting while laying the foundation for the program itself. Start by creating a free, password-protected website to share updates and keep important info easily accessible to all members. Then make a detailed, accurate map of your neighborhood (city records and Google Maps are your friends). Post it on the website, and print copies for everyone at the meeting. Finally, print simple but eye-catching invitations on colorful paper.
- Create your presentation.
Your presentation will be a call to action, and it should include some of the complaints, concerns, and safety needs that others have already addressed. Make sure you also encourage comments and brainstorming at the meeting itself, with open-ended questions that prompt further discussion. For example, how can you help neighbors who go out of town? Everyone’s voice is valuable, and this is how your program will begin.
- Keep at it!
Now that your watch committee has formed, stay active and schedule regular meetings to keep track of your progress and bring up new concerns. Consider throwing fun neighborhood events, too, to help the rest of your neighbors learn important safety tips and get involved with the program’s mission. Congratulations, your neighborhood now has its eyes and ears open!