Neighbourhood Watch originated in the US in the late 1960s as a response to the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in New York. It was estimated that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack, but none of them called the police or came to her aid. This motivated a community response and the very first Neighbourhood Watch scheme was set up in New York,
The program was inspired in part by Jane Jacobs‘ The Death and Life of Great American Cities , which argued that Americans need to keep their “eyes on the streets” and connect with each other in their neighbourhoods. National law enforcement agencies began pushing for community members to get more involved with reporting crimes at the local level by forming groups to watch over their neighbourhoods and to look out for any suspicious activity in their areas.
During the first few years of the program, neighbourhood watch functioned primarily as an intermediary between local law enforcement agencies and neighborhoods, to pass along information about burglaries and thefts in specific neighborhoods.
Goals of Neighbourhood Watch
The goals of a Neighbourhood Watch programs are to:
- Improve community safety generally including, e.g., fire safety.
- Prevent crime by improving security, increasing vigilance, creating and maintaining a caring community and reducing opportunities for crime by increasing crime prevention awareness.
- Assist the police in detecting crime by promoting effective communication and the prompt reporting of suspicious and criminal activity.
- Reduce undue fear of crime by providing accurate information about risks and by promoting a sense of security and community spirit, particularly amongst the more vulnerable members of the community.
- Improve police/community relations by providing effective communications through Neighbourhood Watch messaging systems to warn Coordinators of local crime trends which they can share with their members, and by members informing the police of incidents when they occur.
Making It Work
Neighbourhood Watch works best when everyone on a block knows everyone else. People tend to help people they know.
One tool I’ve seen used is a map or schematic of the street showing each house’s address and the names of the family members in them, including children. When you walk down the street, you’ll be able to greet your neighbours on a first-name basis.
Another tool that’s worked is to have an annual block party. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbours better and to establish stronger relationships with them. Because people can move on from time to time, a block party is a great way to welcome newcomers or to wish departing neighbours farewell.
When you know your neighbours, you know who belongs in your neighbourhood and who does not.
If you see a stranger nosing around a neighbour’s house or car, call the police. It may be something innocent, but you may help catch a criminal.
If you see a strange vehicle driving slowly along the street, it could be a criminal researching your block. Again, call the police.
You may hear, from the Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group, about some suspicious activity in your area. If you have security cameras installed around your house, check to see if they’ve captured something that confirms what’s happening. Share it with the police. It could help find and convict a criminal before they can do more harm.
On Facebook, you can find a Neighbourhood Watch group organized in Long Branch. It’s free to join. Once you’ve joined the group you can post to the group when you see something suspicious, and, of course, you’ll see what other members have posted.
There is also a site called Neighbourhood Protect that connects with the Toronto Police Service so you can receive and view up-to-date crime reports. You’ll need to set up a free account and set your profile to identify you live in Toronto and that you also live in Long Branch, but this can be done in less than 5 minutes.
Here are some useful videos that can help you. All are only 10 – 15 minutes long.
This video is about knowing what and who belongs and doesn’t belong in your neighbourhood. It also reminds us that Neighbourhood Watch is not a vigilante group. Do not confront potential criminals and put yourself at risk. Don’t be afraid to phone the police.
This video is about two programs: CrimeStoppers and Operation Identification. It also has some tips on how you can help your neighbours avoid becoming victims.
This describes some real-life examples of how some residents assisted the police. It also has some good tips to help prevent auto theft.
Learn how to make entryways more secure. You’ll learn about potential vulnerabilities in your locks that will surprise you. Lots of good suggestions about deterrents to make your house more secure.
We’ll post more articles about some of the topics covered in the videos. If you have a special topic you’d like to learn more about, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org