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How to participate in a Neighborhood Watch

Aug 8, 2012, 9:48 a.m.
Neighborhood watches across the U.S. have evolved beyond their initial "neighborhood watchdog" goal of reducing crime to now include terrorism awareness, providing emergency response to a pandemic and much more.

Do you know what neighborhood watch areas are all about? They're an idea turned into a nationwide program by the National Sheriff's Association in 1972. Neighborhood watches across the U.S. have evolved beyond their initial "neighborhood watchdog" goal of reducing crime to now include terrorism awareness, providing emergency response to a pandemic and much more.

If you have an active neighborhood watch in place -- sometimes called a "block watch" or a "crime watch" -- getting in touch with your block captain is the best way to get involved. The block captain usually has oversight for about a dozen families and homes. The block captain works with an area coordinator who, in turn, has direct contact with the local police department. The block captain usually organizes periodic meetings that bring citizens and law enforcement personnel together to discuss current issues and make plans to handle potential problems. You may be asked to join the "telephone tree" -- a list of people calling others to pass information in case of an emergency. (In some communities the phone tree is replaced or augmented with an "email blast" that informs and educates local people on current issues). You might also be asked to recruit other neighbors into the watch, or even to become a member of a citizen's advisory board.

If your community doesn't have a watch program the National Sheriff's Association is ready to help. They've published the definitive guide to starting and running a watch program: the Neighborhood Watch Manual. It's a free download. If your home and neighborhood aren't under the watchful eyes and ears of your friends and neighbors, get the manual, start talking to your neighbors and -- who knows? You may become the "founding mother" (or father) of your watch program.

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