Establishing Your Neighborhood Watch
What is Neighborhood Watch?
Neighborhood Watch is a program designed to increase the safety and sense of community in neighborhoods by organizing and involving individuals and families in a united crime prevention effort.
Neighborhood Watch participants learn how to:
• Communicate regularly with their neighbors using tools specific to Neighborhood Watch;
• Recognize and report suspicious and criminal activity;
• Increase home and vehicle security;
• Increase personal safety of residents;
• Make neighborhoods less attractive to criminals.
When neighbors take the responsibility to build and maintain livable and cohesive neighborhoods, those neighborhoods are less vulnerable to crime. Under Neighborhood Watch, involved neighbors collaborate
with law enforcement, neighborhood coalitions and associations, schools, parks personnel, area businesses, and others to create a united, secure, and peaceful community.
Purpose of Neighborhood Watch
Neighborhood Watch has several purposes:
• To help reduce crime and fear of crime in our neighborhoods.
When an organized Neighborhood Watch exists in an area, it can serve as a deterrent to criminal activity, as well as give residents a sense of safety so they can better enjoy their homes and neighborhoods.
• To help ensure a prompt and effective response to neighborhood crime and livability problems.
Trained Neighborhood Watch members are in a good position to notice problems within a neighborhood, such as burglaries, vandalism, abandoned vehicles, illegal dump sites, evidence of drug dealing or manufacturing, and street prostitution, and they know where to report these problems in order to get a quicker, more effective solution.
• To promote positive communication and relationships within a neighborhood.
Neighborhood Watch provides an avenue for neighbors to get to know one another and build a sense of community.
Starting a Neighborhood Watch
Neighborhood Watches begin by contacting the Professional Standards Division of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office to provide you with materials to get started. Below are the steps to take to set up this initial meeting.
1) Ask a Neighbor or Two to Help You: If you already know some of your neighbors, recruit one or two of them to help you get your Neighborhood Watch up and running.
2) Talk about your Neighbors Concerns: Talk with your neighbors, asking them about their crime concerns and about any other block issues they may have. They might provide you with information about suspicious activity on your block at this time. Also ask them about days of the week that would work for them to attend a meeting.
3) Decide What Area you are going to Organize: At the minimum, invite the neighbors who have a fairly direct view of each other’s houses or apartments. For a standard city block this might include both sides of the street, corner houses that look down your block and backyard neighbors where applicable. It is a good idea to start with your own block, and then recruit people on surrounding blocks to organize their own blocks. If you are organizing within an apartment complex, invite at least all of the people in your building, and decide if you want to invite the people in adjacent buildings as well.
It is obvious that those living in rural areas have their own unique circumstances, often being greater distances from their neighbors as opposed to urban dwellers; however a Neighborhood Watch can be accomplished here as well. This can be accomplished in rural areas as well. Be creative, increase communications between neighbors and keep each other informed.
4) Decide the Time, Date and Location of the First Meeting: Usually Neighborhood Watch trainings are held on weekday evenings, and start around 6:30 - 7:00 p.m. Often meetings are held on your block in someone’s home. Choose a meeting space that comfortably accommodates the neighbors you have invited. The initial meeting takes about two hours.
5) Send out Invitations: Use written invitations to invite your neighbors. Distribute the invitations at least two weeks before the meeting. Try to make personal contact with every neighbor as well. This will increase the turnout to the meeting. Although full block participation is ideal, there are times when a household on the block is suspected of engaging in illegal activity. If the participation of that household makes others reluctant to participate, it is not necessary to include that household.
6) Obtain an Estimated Headcount of those Participating: Once you have completed sending out the invitations and have a feel for the amount of neighbors who will attend, contact the Professional Standards Division and request Neighborhood Watch materials. The types of materials are dependant upon what is available. You will receive at minimum: (1) Booklet on How to Start a Neighborhood Watch; (2) Participant Handbooks; and (3) Home & Personal Safety Handbooks. These materials will be delivered to your home.
7) Recruit Neighbors to Help with the Meeting: They may volunteer to help with refreshments, bring extra folding chairs, escort seniors to the meeting and assist you with contacting other neighbors and organizing the Neighborhood Watch.
8) Confirm and Remind: A day or two before the meeting have several block members help you remind the neighbors of the meeting to maximize turnout.
9) Sheriff’s Office Representation: The Sheriff’s Office does not have a full time Crime Prevention Officer, however whenever possible, we will schedule an on-duty officer to attend for a brief time to explain how the Department operates and answer questions.
10) Follow up Meetings: It’s a good idea for active Neighborhood Watches to set up regular meetings for members to discuss what they are seeing in their neighborhood. At a minimum, the group should meet annually. Many groups find it is more effective to meet more often. Meetings are a good time to discuss how more members might be recruited, or any procedural decisions that need to be made. They are also a good time to have a short training on a topic of interest to members of your Neighborhood Watch that would help them better understand trends in crime and livability problems in their neighborhood.
11) Street Signage: The Sheriff’s Office does not provide Neighborhood Watch signage. In the back of the booklets provided at the initial meeting is an order form detailing the cost(s) and how to order the sign. Once, you have received your sign, it is recommended that you contact your local town or village board to request to have the signs placed.