Golden Rules for Starting a Neighborhood Watch

We have advised many people how they can start a Neighborhood Watch program. After meeting with them and giving them all the necessary information, we have seen many people go out and succeed, and we have seen many people go out and fail.

Indeed much of the results depends on the people who are trying to set it up, how hard they are willing to work their attitude, and their abilities as a leader. After many years of examining successes and failures, we have discovered that the most important elements in a successful watch were the actions taken to get people involved, to get them out of their homes to training meetings and out to patrol with the Neighborhood Watch. Here are some recommendations we now require to be followed in starting a Neighborhood Watch program.

Face to Face Contact
Make the initial contact in person. We will normally start off by doing a survey of the community to see if interest exists by handing out material explaining the program. If the surveys are just stuck on the door, only about 10% of the people will complete and return them. Many coordinators trying to set up watch programs have tried just sticking the surveys on the doors, and have interpreted the low response they received as a negative response towards Neighborhood Watch, and have ended their efforts. Personal contact must be made.

Notifications & Reminders
Provide sufficient notification, and a personal reminder. To get people to attend the training meetings, 1st announce the event about 2 weeks ahead, ideally by handing them a flyer, or placing it on their door, and by placing signs or posters in the community. Then 1 or 2 days prior to the meeting, call them as a reminder. This is very important. Just placing a flyer on their door will result in a low turnout and a sure failure of the meeting. It is easy to forget a meeting. It is also easy to skip it, if you think you are not needed or expected to attend. However, if you have been asked and then reminded to attend, it is hard not to attend.

Get Organized
Organize the Neighborhood Watch. It is best to have the watch organized in the beginning and to involve others to help set it up. During the initial contact, determine who shows the highest interest and use these people as block captains. The survey can be used to determine this. Ask if they would be willing to serve as block captain. If given the choice of yes, no, and maybe, these people will mostly answer maybe. How can they say yes without knowing the duties of the job, or without having the training to do it?

Then contact the potential block captains, advise them that their services are needed, and invite them to a block captain meeting. These are usually informal, at the coordinator's home. By using these block captains to contact their immediate neighbors about the watch program, the coordinator's job is easier. Also, we have noticed that people are more likely to participate if they are approached by an immediate neighbor, someone they see often, even if it is just coming and going. However, they are less likely to respond to the person who lives way down the street, whom they have never seen before. When contacted by their immediate neighbor about the upcoming meeting, it is harder to say no.