Neighborhood Watch is one of the most effective crime prevention tools being utilized today. Neighborhood Watch is basically a return to the way neighborhoods used to be. Years ago, people looked out for their neighbors’ property. If they saw something suspicious, they would investigate or call the police. Today in so many neighborhoods people do not even know their next door neighbor’s name.
Neighborhood Watch was designed to help strengthen the relationships between neighbors and in the process build a community wide crime prevention network. Law enforcement officials have for years relied on the community to assist in apprehending criminals after the crime has been committed. With Neighborhood Watch, this assistance is proactive instead of reactive.
Working together, law enforcement and the community can stop the crime before it occurs. This is the core of the Neighborhood Watch program.
A Neighborhood Watch can be formed around any geographical unit: a subdivision, community or business area. A watch group serves as an extra set of eyes and ears for reporting crime and helping neighbors. How effective a Neighborhood Watch is depends on how active its members are. Neighborhood Watch serves as a springboard for efforts that address community concerns.
First, before you contact your local law enforcement agency, contact your neighbors. Send out a flyer, call, or visit your neighbors to get an idea as to what the main concerns in the neighborhood are in regard to crime and personal safety. If you reside in unincorporated Fayette County, then contact the Sheriff’s Office and check about setting up your first Neighborhood Watch meeting. After your meeting with the Sheriff’s representative and establishing the core group of members, you will receive your signs that will announce to would be criminals that your neighborhood is "on the watch".
If you live in Fayette County, Georgia, and would like to start a Neighborhood Watch, contact Major Ethon Harper.
Tips to Keep Your Program Active
After a Neighborhood Watch program has been adopted in your community, here are some tips on things to do to keep your program active:
- Organize regular meetings that focus on current issues such as drug abuse, crime in schools, recreational activities for young people, and neighborhood problems.
- Organize community patrols to walk around streets and report suspicious activity to law enforcement. People in cars with cellular phones can patrol.
- If your resources will allow, publish a newsletter that gives prevention tips and local crime news, recognizes residents of all ages who have "made a difference", and highlights community events.
- Plan neighborhood social events such as block parties, picnics, and volleyball or softball games.
Remember, the only way we are going to keep our neighborhoods safe with less crime is to get law abiding citizens to take action to insure the safety of our communities and our homes. Neighborhood Watch is not the sole answer to the problem of crime in our communities. However, if we all work together, Neighborhood Watch can help curtail many of the crimes that go unchecked because of simple mistakes or neighbors that are "afraid to get involved".