13 September, 2013

Varieties of Neighborhood Watch Groups

Some Neighborhood watch groups are run by local police departments. Dunbar, WV, for example, is police run and city-funded. 

Others are run by local elected officials. 

Still others - like mine - are citizen-led and receive no help whatsoever from any local government or law enforcement entity.

Some Neighborhood Watch groups call themselves "Crime Watches" instead of Neighborhood Watches  - especially since so-called "Neighborhood Watch volunteer", George Zimmerman, fatally shot Trayvon Martin. Some people think the term "Neighborhood Watch" racial profiling and gun-toting vigilantism. Some think the term "Crime Watch" or even "Neighborhood Crime Watch" somehow connotes something different from the term "Neighborhood Watch". To most people this may be a distinction without a difference. Supposedly, a "Neighborhood Watch" actually patrols the streets while a "Crime Watch" simply reports crimes that can be seen from porches or through windows without patrolling. 

Whatever your neighborhood watch group calls itself, until you have, say, 25% of your neighborhood involved, you simply don't have the eyeballs to mount much of a neighborhood watch effort. 

In previous posts I've said that you can't have a Neighborhood Watch until you've first created a sense of neighborhood, until you've gotten neighbors connecting with neighbors. From a crime prevention standpoint, what does a Neighborhood Watch do? Mostly it gives members a heightened ability to detect and respond to crime and suspicious activity. How do you train people to spot crime and suspicious activity and how do you teach them  when to dial 911 if you don't have a fast, free way to communicate with them, e.g., through email and text? If you haven't done that, capturing contact info is still Job One for your watch group no matter what you call it or who runs it. 

Don't kid yourself. If there are hundreds of people in your defined neighborhood and you only have contact information for about a dozen people and only half a dozen or so come to your meetings, your first concern should be collection of email addresses and cell phone numbers. 

Look at my blog archive for previous posts about how to do that.
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