30 August, 2013

More Straight Talk About How To Really Start A Neighborhood Watch

To avoid actual contact with people, many new neighborhood watch leaders waste a lot of time and money mailing fliers or practically running through the neighborhood sticking fliers to mailboxes or putting them behind storm doors - without ever knocking on those doors , or course. 

Telling themselves they're "working smarter" not working harder, these flier delivery people hope that interested parties will come to a meeting, send an email or otherwise come to the neighborhood watch.

They won't. Only a small percentage - 2 or 3 % - will make your job easy. Most people will perversely ignore even an effort that benefits them and makes their neighborhood safer. It's a fact. 

Your neighbors are waiting for you to fail. They've seen it before. A bunch of do-gooders rise up to defend their neighborhoods, get discouraged by the lack of interest and quit. Your neighbors are going to make you prove you aren't going away before they get involved. The sooner you show them you know what you're doing, the sooner they get involved.

After spending money and time distributing fliers only to get a few people at your first meeting, you'll be ready to quit. If you're like most neighborhood watch startups, you'll be sitting there at your first meeting all prepared to teach people how to recognize meth houses or whatever only to find that hardly anyone attends.

So let's skip past the part where you have to learn the hard way and you and your team get discouraged and want to give up. Let's skip past the part where you tell yourself you are working smart, not hard.  You aren't working smart. You're working dumb.

There's no substitute for getting out there and going door to door and actually talking to people. On the first visit, ask them for their name, their email address and their cell phone number. Most people will provide that info if you explain that their contact information will be used to send them text messages and emails about crimes in the neighborhood and other neighborhood watch information. 

When people begin receiving those texts and emails they start telling their friends and neighbors, some of whom will call and ask you to add them to the lists. In other words, at some point your group will achieve critical mass and the growth starts to be self-sustaining, but in the beginning plan to knock on a lot of doors and plan to hear comments like "Are you with the police? I'll join if you're with the police."

Plan to get questions about vigilantism, about George Zimmerman, about profiling. Plan to knock and knock on doors behind which you hear TVs and conversations but no footfalls coming to answer the door. A lot of people simply don't answer their doors anymore.

Go back on a Saturday when people are outside mowing their lawns or washing their cars. 

Forget trying to "work smarter not harder". When starting a neighborhood watch, it's all about going out on foot and personally asking people for their contact info, a request they ignore if it comes from a flier but with which they will usually comply if it comes from a person standing on their porch holding a clipboard, a pen at the ready as if to say "I fully expect to get the information I've requested."

Show them that their neighbors have complied then ask again and put your pen to paper, ready to write. Nearly 100% of people who talk to you in person will give you their names, their numbers and their email addresses.

Only a few percent of people who get a flier in their storm door will.

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