Yes, there has been a lot of controversy about how George Zimmerman handled his role as a neighbor block watch volunteer, but this doesn't mean that your neighborhood doesn't need one.
Starting a neighborhood block watch is one of the most effective ways to prevent crime. It is not difficult to organize. In addition, it represents a convenient and effective way for neighbors to keep a safe eye on each other. Here are some ways to get started.
1. Hold an Initial Meeting
Send out notices to all neighbors of a date, time and location for an initial planning meeting. Invite a member of law enforcement to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to determine what the safety needs of the neighborhood are and discuss any crime issues. The initial meeting will allow you to gauge the interest level and also communicate the purpose for the block watch.
2. Ask for Volunteers
Any project will have a better chance of success if there are committed volunteers. Volunteers captains will be responsible for keeping information flowing to the neighbors. They can also serve as liaisons between the neighborhood and the police and communicate information about meetings and crime incidents to all residents.
3. Decide How to Communicate
Most people have E-mail, but the elderly and disabled may prefer some other way of being informed about current block watch activities. No one method is required. Whatever forms of communication work best for residents should be considered.
4. Prepare a Neighborhood Map
Prepare a map of the neighborhood and include the names, addresses and contact information for every resident. Give a copy to every neighbor. This can be done at a block watch meeting. It is important that the map be kept up-to-date. As new neighbors move in, be sure to include them in the meetings.
5. How Local Law Enforcement Can Help
Law enforcement agencies can provide important information to the block watch group and teach members about home security techniques, what type of suspicious activity to look for, and crime reporting. Law enforcement can also help with Neighborhood Watch signs by either providing them or explaining where they can be obtained.
Once the block watch is up and running, follow these tips to ensure that the group remains successful.
- Hold meetings regularly
- Include everyone that lives in the neighborhood
- Maintain enough volunteers to ensure that projects can get done
- Stay in touch with local law enforcement regarding any new issues neighbors might need to know
- At block watch meetings, be sure to let neighbors express any concerns they may have
- Pay special attention to the needs of the elderly and the disabled