When it comes to having a semblance of order within our society, we typically look to our law enforcement agencies to help keep things in balance. We have all seen situations where there are riots and things seemingly get out of control, as well as times where we see a little bit too much force being used by the police.
When these situations happen, people within society normally want to help, but they aren’t sure of how to best do it. One way they can help the area where they live, and the people within their community, is by starting or joining a neighborhood watch.
Within this article, I’m going to explore what defines a neighborhood watch. Ill also review what the pros of a neighborhood watch are, as well as what some of the cons might be. This way, you’ll be able to see all the facts in front of you and can make an educated decision concerning if this is the right program for you and your community.
How Is a Neighborhood Watch Defined?
In its truest definition, a neighborhood watch is a group of people who live near one another and help each other out by keeping an eye out for any suspicious behavior. This is typically defined within areas where there are a large group of people, whether it is an apartment complex or a housing neighborhood.
Although a neighborhood watch can be implemented in a rural area, the less dense the population, the less effective the program will be. This is mostly due to how many people actually participate in the program.
When you live in a dense area, not everyone has to be involved, but there are enough people and eyes around to cover everyone. In a rural setting, if only a couple of people are involved, it is very hard for them to see larger distances and therefore there is a greater likelihood that something will go awry.
In addition to this, to be a true neighborhood watch, this group needs to be able to check a few boxes. They need to develop a strong relationship with the local police force. Even if you see a crime happening, you need to be careful and read the situation, which means the local police should always be called in when there is a crime.
In order for this group to be effective, you need to have regular meetings to discuss what has been going well, and what needs to be improved upon.
These kinds of groups also need a leadership structure, so there can be a very clear and defined method on how to handle situations and to build the relationships necessary to be an effective group.
What Are the Pros of Having a Neighborhood Watch Group?
The most important pro concerning a neighborhood watch program is this; there is empirical proof showing neighborhoods with a watch group have less crime than those who don’t. There could be a variety of reasons for this, including economic and social statues.
Even with this being the case, when it comes to crime, there is a universal truth; most criminals like to take the path of least resistance. If they see there are two choices in front of them, which will both net about the same result, and one path has a clearly defined watch program and the other one does not, they will more than likely choose the one without the program.
Criminals do not want to be caught, so they, like everyone else, will minimize risk and want the maximum return for their effort.
Often times, neighborhoods with a watch group will put signs up, just for this reason. The neighborhood wants anyone who comes into the community to know there are people watching everywhere. With this being the case, it’s a lot harder for a criminal to move in and out without being noticed.
Another benefit to a watch group is having regular meetings to discuss what has been going on. In addition to this, during the regular meetings, there are topics which could be discussed in order to bring everyone’s awareness up. These topics could be things as simple as making sure your doors and windows are locked at all times when you are not at home.
You could also hold seminars to include some topics like the best home security systems, or how to look for the blind spots in and around your yard which a criminal could use to scope out your living space.
Another topic possibility is the idea of teaching self-defense. Once again, within a neighborhood watch, you don’t want to turn into a vigilante group. If there is a crime happening, you need to call your local police department whom you have developed a relationship with right away.
However, if you are the one being attacked, there is nothing inherently wrong with defending yourself or your loved ones. Having these skills can make sure you stay safe in a situation that you don’t normally find yourself within.
Lastly, a neighborhood watch group can bring a sense of calmness and security to a community. Knowing that you are not alone within your community, and that there are other people out there watching what is going on should give you a sense of calm to help you relax each night and even have a good night’s sleep.
Having a strong bond to your community will bring value to your own life and the lives of your family, and as in most things in life, living together is better than being alone.
Are there Any Cons to a Neighborhood Watch Group?
With all of these positives laid out, it might be hard to see the negative side of a group like this. There are a few though which need to be thought about and addressed, in order to make sure the group does not self-implode.
The biggest con for a watch group is the idea that people in the group think they can take the law into their own hands. If they see a crime happening, even though they know they should call their local police department, they think they can be the hero and stop the crime from happening. Often times, this leads to a much worse scenario.
Although there are cases where someone was able to thwart an attack, more times than not, it lead to people dealing with more injuries or even something worse.
When in a group like this, this point has to be hammered home. They are not police officers, they are a watch group. The role within the group is to watch out for crime, and if they see it, then they need to alert officials.
They can inform others of ways to be better prepared before a crime happens, but they are not to do anything reckless.
Another con to be on the lookout for is an inflated sense of value within the community. A neighborhood watch is almost always made up of volunteers who want to be in the group. They are giving their time to help others within the community. They might sit in on the meetings, and perhaps even be elected to a leadership position.
However, this does not give them authority on certain matters within the neighborhood. This group is intended to watch for any elements of crime which might be happening and that is it.
They are not meant to be a group of people to help settle disputes or determine what someone can or cannot do within their own house or yard. If you have a group, you always have to safe guard what the intention of the group is, and to ensure it stays within those bounds.
One other concept to be on the lookout for is, which is common in all groups, is the possibility of a division occurring within the group. At certain times, there may not be a very clear answer to an issue you are facing, and opinions can become pretty strong on what needs to be done.
You have to remember this is a volunteer group, and no one should be forced to either be in, or to not be allowed in if they want. However, there are times where you have to take a stronger stance for the benefit of the group and community if there are two or more people who are not able to get along.
Because we are dealing with crime within this group, there is a heightened sense of responsibility and all everyone wants is for the community to be safe. As long as you can keep that at your core, then everything else should work out.
No matter what you decide concerning a neighborhood watch group, hopefully you can see there are a good number of pros and cons concerning a group like this. Once you have analyzed all of these factors, it should become clear if your community needs a neighborhood watch, and if it can sustain it.
Remember, people want to be involved in a community, and being a part of a group like this might be the perfect fit for them.
Lastly, there is no doubt there are some other neighborhood watch programs near you already, and there is nothing wrong with going to visit one of those and see how it is. Talk with them, and have them describe both their successes and the areas they need to improve upon.
This way you can see a group in action, and from this, should be able to determine if this is something your community can support or not.