Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reasons Most Neighborhood Watch Programs Fail

Neighborhood watch programs are a great concept, but in most cases they are ineffective because they are not properly executed. Many if not most, neighborhood watch programs rely on the street signs and window stickers to do the entire job. Street signs and window stickers are a deterrent, but can in no way report suspicious or criminal behavior. Also, when a community only relies on the most basic and simplistic portion of a neighborhood watch program, their complacent attitude shows on the outside, in the form of security breaches, that signal to a prospective crook that no one is really watching. These actions could be leaving a garage door up, or leaving valuables such as lawn equipment or ladders unsecured around the home.

Another reason that neighborhood watch programs fail is due to lack of participation. In order to have an effective neighborhood watch campaign the majority of the community needs to be involved and active. It’s not enough to start a campaign because someone was the victim of a burglary or worst, have a few meetings then not meet until the next criminal act occurs. In order to be effective, the committee must meet at least once a quarter. Have a designated person to send out regular email alerts of criminal activities that the local police are warning people about. Also a twitter account for the community could be set up so that everyone following can get the update at once either online or on their blackberry or cell phone.

Lack of proper training is another major reason neighborhood watch program fail. In order to be effective, the community participants must utilize the skills of a security officer. This means that you need to patrol the neighborhood regularly. When a neighbor is going to be gone on vacation they should tell the neighbor on either side of them and the two neighbors across from them. These four neighbors should walk around the vacationing neighbor’s home at least once a day. Burglars are likely to go to the rear of the home and the damage would not be seen from the street. You can also see if the neighbor may have left a window open. If Fed Ex or UPS leaves left a note on the door of the home, one of the four neighbors watching the home should collect it and give it to the homeowner when they return. This prevents a burglar from knowing that the homeowner is away. The neighbor that is going away should always leave his cell phone number with the people he has entrusted to watch his or her home. If a neighbor assigned to patrol happens to see something out of the ordinary, what should they do? They should observe and report the incident or individual to the local police or sheriff’s department. It is not the job of the neighborhood watch to confront someone or get involved.

Several things that participants in a neighborhood watch program should have with them at all times when they are patrolling. The first is a pen or pencil: the second a small note pad, and third a cell phone. If it is at night, carry a flashlight. The reason these items are a necessity, are so you can write down what you see in detail, when you first see it, and call the authorities.

Making a list of qualified contractors and service people that is distributed throughout the community is also a good way to prevent crooks from posing as workmen infiltrating the neighborhood. If everyone uses one or two qualified contractors to do work, such as painting, repair work, plumbing and lawn work, the community will get to know these individuals and if someone other than them is working on the house while the homeowner is way at work, the neighborhood watch will know to call the homeowner and if necessary the police. This may seem slightly over the top, but it is not because the last known profession of most criminals is in one of the above listed service fields. This is because these trades have low barriers to entry. Mandatory background checks are not required to work in these trades.

Neighborhood watch programs can succeed when there is ample participation, proper training and regular action by those that stand to gain the most. Getting to know your neighbors and caring for them is critical to making the neighborhood watch an important part of people’s lives, so that they become committed to service, not because of obligation, but out of genuine care and love for their fellow man.

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