Crime Prevention: Neighborhood Watch works

Crime reduction, a better quality of life, a greater sense of security and community pride.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

These are some of the benefits many communities have experienced over the years by participating in a simple program operated by groups of concerned neighbors.

Signs of its existence are seen in communities large and small in every state throughout the country. It's been mentioned in the news - both positively and negatively - but do we really know what it is?

A network of concerned neighbors with differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds, different levels of education and different occupations all coming together with a common goal: the safety of their community.

In 1972, as an effort to assist citizens and law enforcement in the prevention of crime, Neighborhood Watch was created. At that time, law enforcement leaders were searching for an effective way to include citizens in addressing an increase in residential burglaries.

Over the years, Neighborhood Watch has evolved from simply being the extra "eyes and ears" of law enforcement to being a more proactive, community-oriented effort.

Some have said signs don't stop crime, and others said Neighborhood Watch doesn't work.

Neighborhood Watch does work but only if the participants actually participate.

No, the sign itself does not stop crime. It exists for the purpose of letting everyone know that the residents of that particular neighborhood are looking out for each other and will report any suspicious activity.

Oftentimes, people say that they do not need a Neighborhood Watch because all of their neighbors look out for each other. Well, folks, that's what a Neighborhood Watch is - neighbors looking out for neighbors. Theirs is just not an organized group recognized by local law enforcement as a Neighborhood Watch.

Others have expressed interest but did not know how to form a watch.

It's simple but takes a bit of effort at first. Someone must take the initiative to contact neighborhood residents, gauge their interest and set up a date for the first meeting.

At that meeting, a law enforcement representative can explain the program. You will need to assign a coordinator and block captains then compile resident contact information. Other meeting topics will be up to you, your watch group and the needs of your community.

The challenge of Neighborhood Watch is maintaining interest. A safe and secure neighborhood often leads to boredom for the watch group, so it's up to members to come up with different ideas for their community such as a neighborhood cleanup, volunteering with church groups, etc.

Some groups have a monthly meeting with a different theme each month.

Hurricane season is upon us, so perhaps a meeting on hurricane preparedness is in order.

If you are truly interested in improving your community, then Neighborhood Watch is an avenue to explore.

Give your local law enforcement agency a call to get one started today.

For more information, contact Crime Prevention Officer J.T. Turner, Crime Prevention Unit, at 361-485-3808.