Courtesy of Realtor.com | Adapted from an article by Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Everyone wants to live in a safe community and a great way to foster safety is to start a neighborhood watch program.
“Neighborhood watch programs are one of the most effective crime-prevention programs in the country,” says Justin Lavelle, a safety expert for BeenVerified, an online background check platform.
With that in mind, here are some tips for starting your own neighborhood watch.
1. Get to know your neighbors
Next door and down the block, it’s good to become acquainted with your neighbors. Get outdoors and walk through your neighborhood. Be friendly and greet others you meet.
2. Compile a neighborhood list
“We hold a party twice a year where we have an opt-in neighborhood list with email addresses and phone numbers,” says Andy Weisser of Woodland Hills, CA. “There are about 70 families, and people can post things like lost dogs, LAPD neighborhood watch summaries, and road resurfacing details.” Having an email chain is a great way to spread the word of any news that affects the neighborhood as a whole.
3. Create a neighborhood safe-watch Facebook page
“Choose a social media–savvy neighbor to serve as the Facebook page moderator and ask residents to post any criminal incidences (such as home or car break-ins),” says Lavelle. Make the group private so personal information isn’t visible to those outside the neighborhood.
Once you create your official neighborhood watch Facebook page, it’s time to get the word out. “Canvass your neighborhood door to door, and invite everyone to follow the page to stay up to date on meetings and events,” says Lavelle. A simple postcard or flyer will help let everyone know your intentions for the program.
4. Be on the lookout for out-of-the-ordinary occurrences
“Members of a community are in the best position to notice variances in the environment,” says psychologist Thomas Boyce, founder of the Center for Behavioral Safety in San Carlos, CA. “That is, neighbors typically know neighbors, and other people or things that look out of place can be addressed before they become problems.”
5. Hold regular neighborhood watch meetings
Getting all of your neighbors together can be tricky due to scheduling, but it’s also one of the best ways to keep communication open.
“Plan meetings well in advance (e.g., monthly or quarterly) at a neighbor’s home or the local library, and offer a baby sitter—it will boost attendance,” suggests Lavelle. “These gatherings will keep everyone in the loop on current problems, plan strategies to combat criminal activities, and help residents get to know each other.
6. Establish ‘safe homes’
Designate a handful of safe homes that children playing or walking home in your neighborhood can come to in case of an emergency.
It is ideal if the safe house belongs to someone who is retired or works from home. Make stickers for the front door or window, and make sure the kids in your neighborhood know which homes are safe zones.
7. Limit door-to-door solicitation
Discourage door-to-door salespeople and other strangers from soliciting in your neighborhood. Lavelle notes that many burglars will use this method to case properties. This could be a good topic to bring up at a neighborhood meeting. Ask residents to put a small sign on their door that says “No Solicitation” to make it crystal-clear.
8. Distribute a safety reminder sheet
People get busy and sometimes forget basic home safety practices. It’s a good idea to create and distribute a flyer with safety reminders like turning on exterior lights at night (a well-lit neighborhood makes crime less likely), locking cars that are parked on the street, and systematically checking that all your doors and windows are locked. And don’t forget to lock your garage doors at night.
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