The number of burglaries and robberies in residential premises has been increasing at an alarming rate. You can not solely rely on the police to offer protection to your family, home and neighbourhood and it is important to make an alternative plan to do so. Neighbourhood watches have been growing rapidly as they are a simple and effective way to ensure your community is safe.
A neighbourhood watch refers to a group of people living within the same area who take it upon themselves to make the neighbourhood safer by working together with the local police to reduce crime within the area. Neighbourhood watches conduct regular meetings to discuss the goals they aim to achieve as well as the assigned responsibilities that each member has.
Neighbourhood watches are able to tackle many issues such as fighting crime, the members of the neighbourhood watch program meet regularly to discuss the most effective methods that they can use to reduce crime. Neighbourhood watches also lead to a more connected community as reducing crime to keep the residents of the area safe leads to a safer and more welcoming environment. They also assist with addressing any other issues within the area such as vehicle safety concerns or animal control issues. The community works together to come up with solutions to address the issues.
Steps To Starting a Neighbourhood Watch
Starting a neighbourhood watch is not difficult, but it requires you to have the support and full involvement of your neighbours for it to be successful. Following the steps below will ensure that you get as many residents involved as possible.
- Gauge Interest
Before you start a neighbourhood watch you will need to see if the members of the community are interested in establishing one. If the crime in the area has increased recently then there is a chance that they will be highly interested, however, if they are low then you might have to do a lot of convincing. You can put together a small team that can help you plan and gauge the interest of the people within the community as well as the possible challenges that you might encounter.
- Promote It
You and your team can go around the neighbourhood with flyers, conduct door-to-door visits or create a Facebook page or WhatsApp group to promote the neighbourhood watch and try to recruit members. You can ask the local media or local businesses help you build a presence.
You should ensure that you offer the members of the community with recent crime statistics in the area and invite all members of the community to a neighbourhood watch meeting.
- Work With The Local Police
When starting a neighbourhood watch ensure that you are working with the local police as you cannot operate one on your own. Your neighbourhood watch should affiliate itself with a sector community forum as each police station contains different sectors that contain a crime community policing forum.
Once you have affiliated yourselves with one, you begin with the paperwork procedure where resident candidates will submit their names for a clearance screening where they take your fingerprints as people with a criminal record do not qualify to form part of a neighbourhood watch. Once these names have been cleared, they are presented to the community who will decide which candidates they want to be part of the watch.
- Determine Who The Neighbourhood Candidates Are
The community will choose which candidates they want for the neighbourhood watch and the chairperson of that sector may take the names submitted to the community policing forum where the final decision regarding the matter will be made. Once the registration of the watch has been officially completed, the candidates will receive branded bibs, appointment certificates from the police and branded magnet stickers for their vehicles to increase their visibility.
- Discuss Concerns and Implement Action Plans
The local police should attend the first meeting to discuss the proper procedures that the neighbourhood watch should follow and what is deemed illegal. You can discuss the crimes you need help with addressing and come up with strategies that the watch can take to accomplish. Members should know that they should report any suspicious activity that they see to the police and not try to take matters into their own hands.
- Create Your Communication Plan
You need to determine the type of communication that will work best for your watch group. You can create a WhatsApp group or a Facebook page where you can pass on information regarding suspicious activity that has been witnessed in the area. This will be important in situations where life threatening crimes occur or when there are dangerous criminals present, as you should firstly call the police. There should be someone in the watch group who meets with the police regularly to ensure that they are aware of the crime that has been happening in the community.
- Hold Your Meetings
You should conduct regular meetings and events to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening in the neighbourhood. You can also discuss current initiatives and come up with new strategies to tackle the crime which can be useful to your group.
Neighbourhood watches can be essential in reducing in the crime in the neighbourhood and it helps the members within the community to feel more empowered. When creating one, it is important that you follow the correct procedures as they will influence its success.