4 Steps To Creating A Neighborhood Watch

How To Start a Neighborhood Watch

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.
Benefits of Neighborhood Watch

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.
Neighborhood Watch

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:

  1. When the crimes take place: days of the week and times of the day.
  2. Where the crimes take place: frequent hot spots created by weak property infrastructure or convenient surveillance and escape routes.
  3. 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).
Crime Watch

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.


Maps! – Your Essential Tool for a Successful Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood Watch Crime Map

In a study of 36 neighbourhood watch schemes, 56% showed a positive outcome in terms of crime reduction. With the effort of creating a neighbourhood watch scheme, you want to give it the best chance of success – enter maps!

This may not seem like the most important tool for a neighborhood watch. At face value I would agree with you. Surely you would want flash lights, vehicles and a bunch of cool security gadgets, not to mention the ever-popular two-way radio? Yes, these are all tools that allow a neighborhood watch to perform its tasks (click here for a detailed discussion on this topic).

But let’s take a strategic look at your suburb’s safety. Considering the amount of effort that goes into putting a neighborhood watch scheme together; you want to ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck.  Here are some questions that need answering: Are you patrolling in the right place? Are your patrols having an effect on the local crime?

How Maps are Used

Obviously the most fun kind of maps are treasure maps. The exciting big red X marks the spot. Who wouldn’t want one, or maybe even ten, of those? But maps don’t only show the location of treasure chests. With the advent of electronic and online mapping techniques, a multitude of uses have emerged. This includes directing us from A to B in the car, or finding the closest hospital. Better yet; the local pizza joint (another kind of treasure).

Maps are a powerful way to represent spatial information. Take a road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa (it’s a worthwhile holiday destination). A quick mapping exercise tells us that it’s a 1398-kilometre drive (that’s 868 miles for those of you who have not been lucky enough to grow up with the metric system). The map will show you that you are going to travel in a southwest direction. It will show you how many towns you will travel through and the attractions on route. It even shows that you will travel through a desert before emerging into green winelands.

But while you are holidaying in the Fair Cape, you want to know that you have not had some unwelcomed house guests and your TV stays just where you left it. So how do we make maps that will help keep your TV out of the hands of a greedy pillager?

Space Age Maps

Maps can be drawn by hand just like your childhood treasure maps. You may quickly jot down a map on a piece of paper, while taking directions down on the phone.

Luckily for us, with the increase in technology, maps can now be made using a variety of computer programs. These are commonly known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). As the name suggests, these systems represent geographic information (the position of a thing on Earth or in space) in picture format.

In other words, a map. Since 2005, Google Maps and cellular technology have made the use of GIS very popular, if not essential. New uses of GIS and maps are continuously being identified, from mapping locations of street art (and categorising the good from the bad), to processing satellite imagery for crop growth and harvest volume predictions. The truth is, the only real limitation to modern maps is the imagination of the user.

Mapping crime

Let’s have a closer look at crime. In the context of mapping, we are saying that crime is spatial in nature.  Each incident takes place at a specific location, at a time or in a time frame with an unfortunate outcome. In some instances, the outcome is less severe such as a car theft. In the event of a home invasion or murder the result is devastating. Let’s add a few more variables. Were there other incidents connected to this incident? Was a specific modus operandi used? Is there a specific region that keeps getting hit?  Unless your brain is like a super computer, it is difficult to accurately place each crime in space relative to one another.

Mental Maps

To add a little complication to the issue, it turns out that perception is a powerful thing. When you start your neighbourhood watch you are going to have to decide how your patrols take place. The last piece of advice you need is something like: “We need to get lots of patrols down Francolin Street because that’s where all those foreigners live”.  This leaves you with a few options:

  1. Let your patrollers drive where ever they like and hope for the best results.
  2. Let your patrollers patrol in the areas that worry them the most and hope that they are right.
  3. Patrol all the streets because that’s what makes people feel safer.
  4. Apply some science to the system by adding extra patrols into hot spots and criminal infiltration areas.

Researchers Natalie Lopez and Chris Lukinbeal, report that there are various studies showing that there is a difference between where crime actually happens and where people perceive that crime happens. This applies to citizens and even to the police. People create what is called a “mental map”. This is a type of mentally visualised Google Earth, complete with images, locations and street names. However, mental maps don’t only include locational data. Like the old treasure maps that got you excited as a 10-year-old want to be pirate, they include emotional metadata. This often manifests as an “impression” of where an event takes place.  These maps are often informed by various events, biases and emotions. Certain publications also supply mental maps with data, including social media posts, the press or crime data that is supplied to the police.  

Studies into this phenomenon have shown that there are differences between where residents and police perceive crime hotspots. Yup, the pro’s also get it wrong.  In a paper titled “Chasing Ghosts? Police Perception of High Crime Areas”, researchers Ratcliffe and McCullagh describe how the type of crime and even the emotional effect of a crime can influence a policeman’s perception of a high crime zone. While the academics delve into this mystery, you are on holiday and worrying about the safety of your TV.  You want your neighbourhood watch to get the best results for your efforts. Enter maps and GIS.

Crime maps for your suburb

By creating a map containing all the locations of all the crime events, it is possible to very accurately, start understanding the relationship between crimes and their spatial position. A pattern then starts to unfold. For example, two crimes have taken place. One happened at 35 de Beer Road and the other at 65 Crystal Road. This is useful information, as we know that two crimes have occurred and where they occurred. Once a map is employed, it is possible to see that 35 de Beer Road is directly across a greenbelt area from 65 Crystal Road. Then comes the lightbulb moment: Everyone knows that houses along greenbelts are targeted more frequently. It’s easy to escape down the greenbelt with the bounty.

This leads to the next question: Are there any other spatial patterns that can be identified by developing a map? And the most important question is: Can we start identifying hot crime areas and target these areas for extra neighbourhood watching? By increasing presence and awareness in the neighbourhood through effectively identifying soft target spots and crime patterns, the crime in the area can be reduced.

Let’s have a look at an example.

The Murdersdrift Case Study

My folks live in small sector of the infamous Murdersdrift area. Actually, it’s called Muldersdrift, but due to the large murder count, cynical residents adopted its new nickname.

During 2013 and 2014 there was an increase in violent criminal activity in Muldersdrift. The area is composed of miles of open grassland, interspersed with large plots, or agricultural holdings. Most properties have poor fencing, unkempt dirt roads and are serviced by a struggling local police station. Security companies are active, but struggle to cover enough ground to monitor and provide a significant security presence. Facing a spate of murders, a sector of the community opted to initiate a neighbourhood watch scheme. Luckily, the community had members with experience in the security and military industries amongst their number. This helped to set up best practice strategies and safety precautions.  

The team decided that a communication network and a rotation schedule for patrolling was a good starting point. They also started asking questions such as:

  • Are there places that get hit most often?
  • Can we see any patterns emerging with time?
  • If we do more patrols in areas that get hit a lot, will the crime incidents reduce?

The team suspected that the answers to these questions may yield some interesting and important results.

The next step was to get data.

Step 1: Collect the data

To start the process, the team began recording as much information as possible about each crime incident. The most crucial piece of information that needed to be present was the location (GPS position) of the crime. Other information recorded included the time of day, date, type of crime, etc. The team recorded anything they could think of that may be of value.

Step 2: Represent the crime spatially

Because the GPS location of the crimes were recorded, a map showing the crimes could be made using GIS (Map 1). This map showed the team that there were places that had a higher concentration of crimes (as they suspected).

After hours of diligent patrols and data collection, the team started noticing certain patterns. One of which was that most of the crimes happened to people living along unfenced open areas and the river (Map 2). Immediately, all these vulnerable places were identified and placed in the map. Then the next bright idea hit! What about roads? Are there more crimes where there is better road access (for entry and high-speed escape)? And what about footpath access?

Step 3: Identify a pattern

Slowly a picture was emerging.

The team began plotting more and more things on their trusty maps. They started analysing the type of crime to see if it was location specific or maybe time of day specific (Map 3). Did houses with dogs get less crime than houses that have no dogs?

“How about the phase of the moon?” someone asked”. “Are more crimes happening when its new moon and therefore darker outside?”

There was an explosion of maps. Happily, none of them had to be drawn by hand thanks to the ever useful GIS.

As the GIS was utilised more and more, the functionality of the GIS map making programme was investigated and aggregate maps were created. Heat maps were discovered with the help of the all-knowing Google (Map 4). Filters and classifications were applied to the data. A second explosion of maps came about. At one point there were so many maps, the torches got lost under the pile.

Step 4: Create a prevention strategy

Eventually after sticking maps up like wallpaper, the team got their permanent markers out and started drawing links to common locations and having mini eureka moments. Hot spots were identified. Times when crimes were most likely to occur were identified. The team created a schedule that fitted into their predictive analysis of when and where they thought crimes would happen. In the neighbourhood, the crime dropped. Surrounding areas without such diligent methods continued on the trajectory of rising criminal activity.

The team also added some good old-fashioned prep to the scheme. This included first aid kits, radio and safe patrol procedures.

Step 5: Happy neighbourhood

The knowledge of the team combined with the power of maps allowed for an effective solution to a deadly problem. Since this time, the sector has been one of the safest in the region and the residents could get on with the day to day wonders of country life including fires, snakes and the occasional noisy party.

References & further reading

Bennett, T., Holloway, K., & Farrington, D. P. (2009). A Review of the Effectiveness of Neighbourhood. Security Journal. doi:10.1057/palgrave.sj.8350076

Johnson, C. P. (2000). Crime Mapping and Analysis Using GIS. Conference on Geomatics in Electronic Governanace. Pune : Geomatics Group .

Lopez, Natalie; Lukinbeal , Chris. (2010). Comparing Police and Residents’ Perceptions of Crime in a Phoenix. Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers,, 72, 33 -55. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/24043341.pdf

Ratcliffe, J. H., & McCullagh, M. J. (2001). Chasing Ghosts? Police Perceptioln of High Crime Areas. Brit.J.Crimnol, 41, 300-341. Retrieved from http://www.jmu.edu/icle/pdf_files/Applied%20Research/Towards%20an%20Information%20Driven%20Organization/Chasing%20Ghosts%20-%20Police%20Perception%20of%20Hgh%20Crime%20Areas.pdf

Rosenberg, M. (2018, October 06). What is a Mental Map? Retrieved from ThoughtCo.: https://www.thoughtco.com/mental-map-definition-1434793


4 Principles For A Neighborhood Watch Patrol (A Complete Guide)

There has been a great deal written about what a neighborhood watch is. There is much written on how to create one. But now for the first time, let’s look in detail at how to do the patrol safely.

An incident or a string of incidents has created a call to action in your neighborhood.  Before you know it, Whats App groups are being formed and you are scheduled to do your first patrol. Put on your cape and don’t forget your mask; your super sleuthing days have begun.

Preparation is Key

“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” ― Robert Schuller.

Preparation for the patrol is as important as the patrol itself. This is especially important in neighborhoods where there is a high crime risk.

Consider the following scenario:

It’s a quiet and warm evening and you are coming to the end of an uneventful drive through the suburb. Turning a corner, you start heading for home, suddenly a movement catches your eye.

You turn towards the house on your right. You know; the one with the annoying couple that’s always trying to get you to join a new multi-level marketing scheme promising a superior lifestyle for more points. You turn your spotlight in the direction of the movement, just in time to see a tall thin male dressed in dark clothing leaping out of a window.

Your Heart Skips a Beat

It looks as if he has a laptop bag over his shoulder and he immediately starts to run in the direction of the suburb’s park area. Naturally your heart skips a beat and your body kicks in the ancient fight-flight-freeze process that has kept your family alive since your ancestors foraged in grasslands and “ook” was an entire sentence.

Your hands start to shake and fine motor skills, like finding a number on a cell phone, are discarded in favor of gross motor skills, like running or saying “uhgg” (caveman for “oh goodness, there’s a guy running over there with something on his back”). For a second your mind goes blank before you engage the gear and start to call for help.

Let’s check a few items:

  • Do you know where your flashlight is, or is it at the back of the glove compartment after you used it to change a flat tire one evening.
  • Will your flashlight work, or has the battery run down during the patrol?
  • Do you need to dig your phone out of your pocket, or scramble in the dark for your two-way radio?

It’s at this moment that preparation will determine your success and your safety.

Principle No. 1 For Safe Patrolling: Prepare For Success Under Duress.

Prepare Your Equipment

The answers to these questions are all answered during the preparation phase of the patrol. The goal is to set your gear up so that when the adrenaline is pumping and your inner caveman is running the show, you are functional and effective. Start by checking any equipment that is battery operated. This includes your flashlight, cell phone and two-way radio (if you have such a network).

If you live in a part of the world where it is necessary to be armed, then give your firearm a check. Give the magazine a tap and check that the firearm is in the appropriate carry condition. Secure it to your body. You can’t have your weapon sliding around the vehicle because you suddenly slammed on brakes.

It should be noted that some schemes insist that patrollers are unarmed. After all, you are supposed to be on “eyes, ears and call for help” duty and not “chase, apprehend and interrogate” duty.  

Next, test any other additional equipment. Some neighborhood schemes use a flashing amber light mounted to the roof of the car to maximize visibility. If this is the case, your cars’ auxiliary charger needs to be working.

There are times when patrollers need to assist with non-security related emergencies such as vehicle accidents or helping old Mr. Jones jump-start his Delta 88 Oldsmobile. A reflector vest and headlamp are indispensable tools for these occasions.

First Aid Kit

Your car should also contain a first aid kit. You may not be able to do much medically, but silicone gloves will allow you to assist medical personnel without facing the danger of blood borne diseases.

Ensure that you have some form of legal identification on your person. If you are rendered unconscious in some form of emergency, it’s essential that first responders can identify who you are.

Last of all; if you are not armed, some form of self-defense tool is necessary so secure a pepper spray to your waste or vehicle compartment (click here to learn about using pepper spray). Mightier than the pepper spray, a pen and notepad will assist you in note taking. Yes, you are a busy person and fine details may well slip your mind.

Where Is Everything Located?

Now decide where the kit is going in the car. The rule is to securely place the gear in the same place every time. That way when the brain clicks into crisis mode, it’s easy to find what you need. If are going to panic, be a well prepared “panicker”.

Don’t leave your paraphernalia on the passenger seat. Each piece of equipment needs to be in a secure location rather than somewhere in the dark on the floor of the car. If your cell phone is your primary method of communication, then pre-program critical numbers in a speed dial or favorites list. If you are going to use a push to talk App, then have the App open and the appropriate group on. Once you are ready, it’s time to turn on the ignition key and leave the Batcave.

Planning Your Route; Patrolling With Purpose

As opposed to the drive around aimlessly without any plan method; route planning is an integral part of the success of the patrol. Your route should fit into the security plan of your scheme. Perhaps it’s going to cover a crime hotspot, or a group of vulnerable houses.

The route needs to have a purpose. A route means that everyone knows more or less where you are during the patrol. This adds an additional layer of safety to your patrol. In some instances, you may want to follow an exact route, but it’s good to have some flexibility. Predictable routes create windows of opportunity for bad guys and boredom for patrollers.

Plan Using A Map

The plan starts with a map of the suburb which should be constructed by the coordinators of the scheme. The map should be overlaid with crime locations, incident times, common criminal entry points and vulnerable points of interest.

This can be done on computer by a process called GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Now don’t go all caveman and be scared off by this term. A GIS map can easily be constructed on free applications like Google Maps or Google Earth.

Once the map is created, it’s easy to see where your problem areas are and conduct some proper planning. At the end of the process, a patrol roster should be issued. For example, Jimmy is patrolling from 18h00 to 19h00 on sector 1 of the map, Dave from 19h00 to 20h00 on sector 2 and so on.

Think Your Route Through

Think your route through. If you want to learn the details of an area, tear yourself away from the shiny Netflix box for an hour, and take a walk on a Saturday afternoon. This will give you intimate knowledge of the suburb. In many cases it’s the same process that a house breaker uses to find his target. Alternatively, internet tools like Google Maps and street view can also be used. Start to activate your security brain by using a questioning process:

  • Where are the vulnerable homes on the route? Jenny the underpaid IT teacher who knows lots about GIS, has no burglar bars on her windows!
  • Where are potential points of danger? Maybe it’s a bottle store that gets busy in the evening; or an intersection where you are going to be forced to stop and wait for traffic.

These spots will need additional vigilance before you arrive at the location. Where are the darkest areas on the route; or the narrow streets that don’t offer you a left or right turn if you feel you are in danger?

Now with your security gear engaged, lets get on with the patrol.

Patrolling techniques

Situational Awareness

You cannot react to danger if you cannot perceive danger. Situational Awareness will be covered in detail in another article, however for purposes of your patrol,

Principle No. 2: Use Your Five Senses to Identify Features That Are Out of Place in the Environment.

You scan the environment by looking, listening, feeling and smelling for something that is out of place (apart from a good cup of coffee, give the sense of taste a break for now). Your situational awareness may detect a vehicle that is driving unnaturally slowly or too fast.

Perhaps it’s parked in a strange place. It could be the way someone walks through a neighborhood, or perhaps there’s two people who don’t seem to be walking with any purpose. Maybe it’s an object like a dustbin that has been propped against a wall so it could be used as a step ladder. Whatever it is, let your senses draw you to anomalies on the route.

Observe and Report

Once you spot something that stands out, your job is to observe and report what you have detected from a safe distance.

Your vehicle lights, mirrors and flashlight will assist to enhance your sense of sight. In the instance of a two-person patrol, the driver can take care of the driving space, while the crew in the passenger seat can give extra attention to the patrol area on the passenger side of the car.  

Weather permitting, it’s good to keep a window open or partially open. This allows sounds from the environment to filter into the vehicle. Sounds of shouting, alarms ringing, or rapid footsteps should draw your attention. The open window also gives you access to the smell of smoke; a valuable warning sign in the case of house fire.

Driving Style

Principle No. 3 For Safe Patrolling: Movement Creates Safety.

It’s far more difficult to attack a moving target than a stationary target. There are places during the patrol where you are going to have to come to a stop.  These are the times of highest risk.

Plan for these places by making a conscious effort to increase your situational awareness. Scan the area before you arrive at a stop street or traffic light. Make sure you have checked the areas to your left and right. Dark zones need extra care. A cul de sac or a place where you are forced to execute a 3-point turn can be especially tricky. A complicated driving manoeuvre is going to take your attention away from scanning the area. These risky places should form part of your route planning.

Driving speed can vary. Generally slower speeds allow you to scan the environment in greater detail, however there might be times when you want to quickly double back and loop a block to check that someone wasn’t waiting for you to drive past so that they can start tampering with the door of a vehicle parked on the street.

Calling for help

Principle No. 4 for Safe Patrolling: When You Call For Help, Location, Location, Location.

The primary tasks of a neighborhood watch are to create a presence in the suburb and to provide eyes and ears support for policing and security services. The idea is to stay away from danger and to call in suspicious and criminal activity. However, since you are on the street, it’s possible that something can happen. Be it on the cell phone or 2-way radio; when people are facing danger or are in shock, it is common for them to report what is happening, forgetting to say where they are.

This happens to security personnel and civilians alike. A typical example is, “I need help. I just saw a head on collision. Lots of people hurt”.  With this message first responders know what the emergency is, but don’t know where to find you. An alternative would be “Corner 6th and 14th, serious vehicle accident, I need assistance”. Even if communications are cut at this point; people know your location and can send help. You can always add details or new locations at a later point.

Scenario Planning

One way to resolve this situation is through a process of scenario planning. Make a list of possible emergency scenarios that can take place and develop a response to those situations. Specialist military and police units do this all the time. When the moment of crisis develops, they have already developed a trained response, this is what gives them the upper hand against the bad guys. What would you do if:

  • You come across a serious motor vehicle accident at a busy intersection?
  • You turn the corner and see an armed robbery in progress and one of the assailants looks directly at you?
  • Your car breaks down during the patrol in the darkest part of the suburb?

The scenarios are endless. Don’t be afraid to confront the questions. It’s worth developing a network of experts that can help you answer these questions. Here are two framework statements that can help you solve the scenarios:

  1. Position yourself in the place that will facilitate the highest degree of safety for that scenario.
  2. Call for help providing your location and the nature of the emergency.

Arrive alive

Lastly, the patrol is not over until your vehicle is locked away and you are safely indoors. It’s possible that while you were being the suburb’s caped crusader; your house became the target. Military units that return to their base after a long foot patrol will often use specific techniques to ensure that they don’t walk into an ambush just as they are ready to drop their kit and brew up a cup of something warm.

Approach your home as if it is the first time you are seeing the property. It’s predictable for you to drive directly home, park your car, drag your kit out as you berate the dog for leaping in the car. Even if he uses his tongue to communicate his undying affection for you!

Instead break the routine by creating variations of arriving home.

  • Use Principle 2 and pass by the house, do a turn around the block and listen for suspicious sounds.
  • Remember Principle 3; once you have parked your car, you are vulnerable. You need to get out as quickly possible.

Because you used Principle 1; your kit and house keys are quick to access, and you are on the move to the appropriate door. Not much you can do about the dog though! You can hang up the super hero kit for the night or day only once you have established the house is safe and you are locked indoors.





What is a Neighborhood Watch?

What is a Neighborhood Watch

Meet The Neighborhood Crime Watch

The neighborhood watch, a fascinating social convention that exists in various forms around the world. There are various characters that form part of this amateur crime prevention group:

There is the meticulous curly haired woman in her early 60’s. She’s a busy body organizer, and her efforts will give her husband some welcome relief as he turns back to watching the cricket test match on the telly.

The military veteran sometimes marvels at the inexperience of the people around him, but luckily, he is always on hand to offer a wise and much detailed military anecdote.

Johnny Rambo is a car salesman who has found his true calling as a crime fighter. Equipped with leather driving gloves and a 1 million lumen spotlight, nothing can stand in the way of this determined super sleuth.

Lastly, we have the millennial investment banker who does patrols between studying for his MBA and ordering a new polycarbonate mountain bike with rewards points earned from a side hustle run on his tablet.

Neighborhood Watch Definition

The neighborhood watch goes back as far as the 1970’s in the USA and the 1980’s in the United Kingdom. However, the concept of volunteer citizen force patrolling a town, village or even cave dweller community probably goes far back into the history of human society.

There are various definitions of the concept, but essentially:

A neighborhood watch is a group of community volunteers that have formed an organized scheme that is tasked with patrolling a community area in order to reduce crime in the neighborhood.

Depending on the part of the world, this may be conducted by groups of people on foot, or in vehicles.

Why Start a Neighborhood Watch Program?How To Start A Neighborhood Watch Program

In a paper called Communities, Crime and Neighborhood Organization, Professor Wesley Skogan, notes that “Crime is corrosive”, it corrodes our trust in one another and damages our will to act within our community.

After stating so often that “there’s nothing that can be done about crime”, we actually begin to believe it. As the corrosion grows, people shrink their psychological territories to the borders of their homes and the doors of their cars. As they enter their suburbs, they observe and interact less with their immediate environment and avoid questioning suspicious activity.

Situational Awareness

“Situational awareness” the term that security experts’ treasure, is exchanged for “it’s got nothing to do with me, and what’s for supper anyway”? The belief that “a man’s home is his castle” takes on a new meaning.

The castle walls once designed to keep out invaders now also serves to save us from greeting the neighbors. We become so inwardly focused that we don’t even notice the unknown car that is slowly driving down the road.  Areas that are not overtly monitored are natural targets for criminals.

==> Check out our Situational Awareness Guide

The paradox is that people who are under threat often contract from society, while the solution is to extend yourself outwardly and engage in with the community. South African security expert Prof Rudolph Zinn,  has noted that one of the most effective ways to prevent crime in a neighborhood is for residents to actively get involved in crime prevention initiatives.

South Africa suffers from one of the highest crime rates in the world, and yet when a case study was conducted involving well-structured vehicle and foot patrols in the suburb of Roodekrans,  it was found that 18% of crimes took place during the patrol periods and 82% during the non-patrol times (Meyer & Van Graan, 2011). When the community patrols were active, crime significantly reduced.

Benefits of a Neighborhood Watch

There is a time for people to say, “enough is enough”. The pain of constant criminal incursions is sufficient to drive home dwellers away from YouTube and Netflix screens, and into the dark of the neighborhood street. The curly haired woman stamps her fist on the table, Facebook and WhatsApp groups are alight with anger and a meeting is called. With some good planning and leadership, the neighborhood watch has been shown to be an effective crime-fighting mechanism (Bennett, et al., 2008).

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.

Reading Resources for your Neighborhood Watch

Bennett, T., Halloway, K. & Farrington, D., 2008. The Effectiveness of Neighbourhood Watch. Campbell Systematic Reviews, p. 48.


National Neighborhood Watch, ND. About Neighborhood Watch. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nnw.org/about-neighborhood-watch
[Accessed 17 November 2018].

National Sheriffs’ Association, ND. Neighborhood Watch Manual. [Online]
Available at: http://nnw.org/sites/default/files/documents/0_NW_Manual_1210.pdf
[Accessed 17 November 2018].

Skogan, W. G., 1989. Communities, Crime, and Neighborhood Organization. Crime & Delinquency, 35(3), pp. 437-457.

Willink, J. & Babin, L., 2017. Extreme Ownership How U.S. Navy Seals Lead & Win. Second Edition ed. New York: St Martin’s Press.