House crime doesn’t start in the home.
It starts in the street.
Before forking out your hard earned money on a security system, realize that you can reduce crime in your area by as much as 26% by starting a neighborhood watch!
In this post, you will learn exactly how to start a neighborhood watch, in 4 easy steps!
But first I need to explain how a neighborhood watch benefits your community as a whole.
Benefits Of A Neighborhood Watch
Some of the benefits of a neighborhood watch are:
- It brings communities together. People share information, start looking out for their neighbors and quickly spot vehicles and people who do not belong to the area.
- People start to take ownership and responsibility for their own security – this makes a person less of a victim and depletes the victim mindset. This is even important from a trauma recovery perspective.
- People that get involved in patrols start to see the neighborhood through the eyes of a patroller. With their new “security eyes” they start to become more vigilant and start to see the importance of security measures such as creating lighting in the yard area.
Now that you are aware of some of the benefits, here are the 4 steps to creating your own neighborhood watch:
How To Start A Neighborhood Watch
1. Recruit People
It is said that neighborhood watches bring communities together. The truth is that every community is made up of three groups of people.
- Those that will go the extra mile. This will become the core group, they will lead the initiative. Their cohesiveness is critical to the success of the initiative.
- Those that will contribute when they can. These community members will fit into patrols and may rotate in and out of the scheme as time, impetus and energy is available.
- Those that freeload. Some people simply won’t assist. Under a mask of denial or resentment, they are willing to continue their lives while gaining the security benefit provided by active members of the community. Maybe this is because they don’t believe in the process, or they don’t like what the neighbor in the brick-walled house who’s tree fell on the wall seven years ago. The point is you should expend a limited amount of energy on this group. There are more important battles to win.
You need to collect as many people as possible. As time goes by, membership will dwindle. People will move out of the neighborhood, change jobs or lose interest.
New homeowners need to be encouraged to join and enthusiasm needs to be reinvigorated in old inactive members. Operational meetings can be important but often seem like a drag to the busy and harassed.
Community events such as fun days, picnics and greenbelt walks are a critical part of this process. Training is another valuable process, people leave with a skill, and training promotes cohesiveness within the team. The principle is simple, social cohesion reverses social corrosion.
2. Pick Your Time and Place (How To Boost Your Success)
People willing to participate are always going to be a scarce resource. Patrol times are often not convenient. They clash with family time and interfere with sports fixtures.
As the year closes, crime patterns often increase while time and energy reserves are low. It may not always be possible to have a regular weekly patrol.
Furthermore, crime trends will change according to three criteria:
- When the crimes take place: days of the week and times of the day.
- Where the crimes take place: frequent hot spots created by weak property infrastructure or convenient surveillance and escape routes.
- How the crime takes place: common methods of committing the crime in your area (what the security pro’s call the “MO” or modus operandi).
When choosing the right times and dates for patrols, you should analyze these crime trends. If crime generally strikes at a certain time of day, that might be the perfect time to schedule a patrol. This will boost the success of your crime watch.
This will tell you:
- When is the best day of the week and time of day to run patrols? Scratch off the unlikely time slots so that you don’t waste precious time.
- Where do the highest number of patrols need to take place to deter opportunistic crime? Why waste energy driving in a place where the criminals can’t see you? Visibility is an important part of the patrol’s success. Don’t let the veteran talk you into all that camo and black ops stuff.
How can neighborhood watch members patrol in the safest way that will disrupt the most criminal activity? (Click here to read an article I wrote about how to conduct a safe community patrol)
3. Use Social Media
Social media is an inevitable phenomenon in our communities. Rather than just letting it happen, it’s something that needs conscious planning and management.
There are a number of platforms available such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram, a dedicated website can also be useful. We recommend one that is smartphone focused so that watch members can use it at home or on patrol.
The app should also have a push to talk function, which can be used to substitute a two-way radio system.
Smartphone apps for crime fighting is a subject on its own, below are a few basic rules to make your use of social media successful:
- Create a strict set of rules for members. Community members should understand the purpose of the group. The rules should be clear on the posting of pictures and videos and whether the dreaded emoticons are permitted.
- Chatter should be limited (no annoying emojis).
- Assign one person to administer the group
- Encourage the reporting of suspicious behavior, such as strange vehicles or pedestrians in the area. This functions to alert other community members and creates a record of events around the neighborhood.
4. Take Ownership (How to Lead a Neighborhood Watch)
No battle was ever won without effective leadership. The leadership of a neighborhood watch may be up to one central figure or may be shared by two people. Who should this person be?
In Extreme Ownership How US. Navy Seals Lead and Win, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin explain that a leader needs to be a “true believer” of the mission and that the leader needs to believe in the “greater cause”.
This is essential because at some point the leadership of a community scheme is going to be tested. Personality clashes are bound to happen. People lose impetus or opinions of how a scheme should run may differ.
Someone is going to have to smooth the egos and align people to the mission. If you have decided to be this person, then consider the following:
Design the scheme for success:
Use your start-up team to decide what an optimal neighborhood watch for your suburb would be. Then reverse engineer this process.
Set the tone:
As the leader, you set the tone and culture of the scheme. If you are authoritarian and reactionary you are most likely to irritate your members, some of which who run families or businesses. Alternatively, people will follow a calm person who is willing to communicate and take responsibility for the process.
Define a simple mission:
What is the goal of your neighborhood watch? When conflicts arise use this to realign people’s perspectives. What is the simple truth that has brought you all together?
Create a code of conduct:
Each member needs to sign a code of conduct.This should include the mission and the objectives of the watch. It creates rules of engagement and guidelines for the treatment of people in the neighborhood. The last thing you want is a person who has misunderstood the mission and feels this is his opportunity for some “good ole” vigilante action.
Prioritize and execute:
Once patrols are up and running, new issues will arise, there may even be times when you need to make snap operational decisions.
Willink and Babin use the principle of “prioritize and execute” to assist in the decision-making process. In short, you need to establish which is the highest priority issue and find a simple and direct solution that members of the team can execute.
Keep your enemies close:
There is always going to be that irritating individual in the group. You know, the one who was in the much better neighborhood watch group before he moved to this suburb.
The problem is that this person has the ability to derail the good work that has already been done. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton used a famous maneuver, he quarantined a particularly negative member of the group by keeping him in his team. In this way, he prevented the man from damaging the group’s much needed morale.
It’s a good idea to patrol in pairs, especially in high crime areas. You may need to take one for the team and patrol with this person or assign him to a mature member of the group that is less likely to be affected by his negativity.