The May 2009 report of the United States Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics shows serious violent crime rates have decreased since 1993. Property crime rates continue to decline. The number of drug related arrests is increasing. Also, the percentage of crimes being reported to the police is increasing. Part of this increase of reporting of crimes is due to the efforts of concerned citizens forming neighborhood watch programs in their own communities.
The strength of a nation is defined by the strength of its citizens. Concerned citizens around the nation have formed neighborhood watches, sometimes called crime watch groups, dedicated to preventing crime and vandalism in their own neighborhoods. The purpose of the groups is not vigilante in nature. The goal is crime prevention through education and organization, reporting crimes to the proper authorities when they occur.
Neighborhood watch groups began forming in the United States in the late 1960’s in response to an increase of rape and murder crimes. Often, these crimes went unreported and citizens were left wondering what they could do to prevent crime in their own neighborhoods. Local communities formed groups to watch over their neighborhoods and report suspicious activities to the authorities. Then, in 1972, The National Sheriff’s Association began a nationwide effort to expand these groups into more communities around the nation.
USAonWatch is the national neighborhood watch program began by the National Sheriff’s Association. The National Sheriff’s Association has been working with local communities for over 35 years to organize and train neighborhood watch groups. They provide formal training for volunteers including information on crime prevention principles, partnerships and how to conduct effective meetings.
The emphasis is on teaching citizens to be the “eyes and ears” of law enforcement. Citizens are trained in methods of forming crime prevention strategies to reduce crime in their local neighborhoods. Part of this training includes information on how to secure residential property, making it less vulnerable to break-ins.
Starting a Neighborhood Watch Program
To start a neighborhood watch program in your own community, first talk to local law enforcement officials. Many law enforcement agencies will be willing to send a representative to meet with a committee of neighbors to discuss forming a neighborhood watch group. They will be able to give you the information and tools you need to get started.
Neighborhood Watch Toolkit
As a service to local neighborhood watch programs, the National Sheriff’s Association in partnership with the United States Department of Justice provides a Neighborhood Watch Toolkit that contains important resources to help start your own group. The kit includes: CD’s that train individuals in community watch skills, facilitator handbooks to use in connections with Neighborhood Watch, and flipbooks containing information on how to conduct effective meetings.