As people, security and safety rest around the top of our list of wants. That’s exactly why we employ police departments in vast numbers, to prevent crime and keep our living areas safe. But sometimes the police can’t be relied upon to save the day, such as when the police are located far from where your community sits.
Because of this, neighborhood watch programs are a fantastic way to bolster the security of your community while bringing members together for a common cause. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of forming a neighborhood watch in your community.
Before we parse out the pros and cons of the Neighborhood Watch Program, we need to define what it is we’re specifically discussing. The Neighborhood Watch Program began as a movement in the 1960s in the United States amid a high prevalence of crime. Police departments across the nation were looking for ways to gain a little bit of help from the citizenry in reducing that prevalence and preventing crime entirely where possible.
The movement lead to what is today, officially, the National Neighborhood Watch but the idea stretches far beyond the borders of this official program, and the borders of the United States for that matter. The idea of a neighborhood watch has taken up roots overseas as well, especially in the U.K.
The official Neighborhood Watch Program registers community neighborhood watch programs and provides them with guidelines and resources to protect their neighborhoods. If your community doesn’t already have a neighborhood watch, you can start a new one through the National Neighborhood Watch as well.
So, what is the Neighborhood Watch?
The Neighborhood Watch is a conglomeration of individuals from a certain community. These individuals, often volunteers, work together to set-up a system of surveillance and awareness of their community in order to be quicker to react when things seem awry.
The methods used by these groups help to aid police in stopping crime before it can occur and they can also prevent crime from entering their community altogether.
Today, the Neighborhood Watch serves as a critical part of many communities’ security strategies. Even more, these groups now help contribute to disaster preparedness in their communities, emergency preparedness, and they even serve as an extension of homeland security by nature of their organization and objective.
Neighborhood watch groups often form close relationships with their local police departments as well. This helps to ensure cooperation and understanding in the interactions between the police and neighborhood watch.
So why might neighborhood watch programs be important? Well, frankly, the list is quite long. Of course, the neighborhood watch programs are important because of their ability to support local police and strengthen their local communities. But before diving into this particular importance, are there any other reasons these programs might be important?
For one, forming a community group with a singular goal can only serve to bolster the sense of community amongst your neighbors. Where there is a greater sense of community, there is a greater sense of motivation to protect. This causal relationship between desire to serve and the building of community is one of the most important reasons for the being of these programs.
Neighborhood Watch Programs are also important because they have an external effect outside of the community. For instance, if your neighborhood is being watched, criminal activity will gradually move to other neighborhoods outside of your own.
When these other communities also have neighborhood watch teams, these criminals run out of places to exploit.
Therefore, these programs are important because when formed and run in large numbers, criminals effectively run out of easy targets, reducing crime naturally.
Now for perhaps the most important reason for the being of neighborhood watch programs – the assistance they provide to local police in containing, reducing, and preventing crime in your neighborhood. Safety is, after all, the main goal of a neighborhood watch group. Having more eyes focused on your neighborhood and the happenings within it aids the police when they can’t have eyes on the ground.
We could continue on with reasons why these neighborhood watch programs are important in their own essence, important to the communities they serve, and important to the local police and overall security of the land. We will instead cover some their importance by getting into the pros, or advantages, associated with the programs below.
The most advantageous part of having a neighborhood watch in your community is having additional awareness and focus on your community’s security when the police are not actively present.
Most police departments could never come close to keeping an eye on all of the communities under their jurisdiction.
That’s why neighborhood watches are a great way to add a layer of security to your neighborhood’s peace of mind.
When your neighborhood is being watched by a dedicated group of individuals, who by the way live there too, you can almost guarantee your safety at all times. Well, you can at least relegate the thought about your own safety to the back of your mind as your neighborhood is working in tandem to protect everyone.
Of course, one should always have somewhat of a guard up regarding their safety, but neighborhood watches allow you to sleep peacefully at night knowing a burglar, or other criminal, has much diminished odds of succeeding, or even bothering within your neighborhood.
A third advantageous effect of the neighborhood watch is the intimidation of criminals.
When registering your neighborhood watch, you can receive a sign that warns of the presence of a neighborhood watch in your community.
These signs and the presence of your community’s watch intimidates any criminal because it adds a layer of resistance to their end goal and criminals often seek out the path of least resistance – which is ironically part of the reason they’re engaging criminally to begin with.
The presence of a neighborhood watch doesn’t only protect the neighborhood from crime, it also creates the opportunity for the community to come together and create shared goals. For instance, if there are parking disputes between individuals of the community or something such as organizing community activities, etc., the neighborhood watch can be a great way to organize and hold meetings with the community regarding such topics.
This also aids in the sense of community in your neighborhood. When people feel heard and represented, especially as locally as possible (ie. your neighborhood), they’re more motivated to participate in the community and to serve the community. Neighborhood watches are a great engine for community, forming relationships, and tackling civil matters as a group. Having a neighborhood watch increases the confidence of the community, tightens the bonds of the community, and increases the individual’s knowledge of safety and security in their community.
The first disadvantage, or misunderstanding, that persists with neighborhood watches is the idea that you are permitted to intervene in an ongoing crime. Forming a neighborhood watch gives you no such power to act or intervene in a crime. You are still at serious risk when there are crimes occurring and you should not be looking to be a “hero” of any sorts while serving on your local watch. This is a common thing that unfolds with new neighborhood watches or watches who’ve taken their duties too far.
The main purpose of the neighborhood watch is to serve as an extended set of eyes for the police. You are essentially a front line intelligence source for the police when there is a crime in your community. You are not to act as police in any capacity.
Some folks can form an aggrandized sense of themselves when working with a neighborhood watch, especially if your local watch has elected a “chief” or leader of any sort for your group. Being that neighborhood watch programs are volunteer based, the people getting involved tend to have an invested interested in serving their neighborhood.
However, keep an eye out for the individuals that may be serving only to be praised by the community. These individuals can serve as a serious obstacle to properly securing your community and forming a sense of community between members of the neighborhood.
The next biggest disadvantage of the neighborhood watch is that it does take time and effort to effectively operate. Of course, this is understood by those going or volunteering to work with the group, but it doesn’t change the idea that it’s true and a challenge. This is why the group needs to be cohesive and work to form strong, personal relationships.
If the group can’t work together, it’s nearly guaranteed all parties will quit putting in the time and effort required to properly administer safety strategies and proper organization of the watch group in general. So the best way to fight the challenge of the time and effort it takes to have a neighborhood watch is to make the watch group fun, exciting, and enough of a community to keep people motivated to continue lending a hand.
In conclusion, the pros far outweigh the cons of forming a neighborhood watch. The pros present your community with an opportunity to secure itself, to form a close relationship, pursue common goals, and increase communal confidence. The cons better serve as warnings to lookout for rather than reasons to not form a watch.