Chapter 2
Starting a Neighborhood Watch

Watch Facts

Neighborhood Watch is also known as Home Alert, Citizen Crime Watch or Block Watch. No matter the name, the idea’s the same — “neighbors looking out for each other.”

By 2000, roughly 40% of the U.S. residential population was covered by citizen crime-watching programs

A New York University report indicates that for every 10 community programs created in a city of 100,000 residents, there’s a:

  • 6% Drop in violent crime
  • 4% Drop in property crime
  • 9% Drop in the murder rate

Neighborhood Watch groups are easy to start, and the programs are built upon successful relationships between law enforcement and the community. Initially, you’ll have a meeting with your neighbors and include a local law enforcement representative — but after that, it will take more effort to maintain interest and keep the group running smoothly.

To start, chat to your neighbors to gauge interest, and contact your local law enforcement agency. Many police departments and sheriff’s offices have an established program,

or an officer assigned to Neighborhood Watch. If an officer is not trained in Watch, invite them to attend your first meeting and you can learn together.

Don’t be discouraged by low attendance or lack of interest. Not everyone will be interested in joining your Watch group right away, or understand the need for the group. Continue to invite everyone and update neighbors who aren’t involved. As the group grows, more will want to join.

The Five Steps

Recruit and organize as many neighbors as possible.

Contact your local law enforcement agency and schedule a meeting.

Discuss community concerns and develop an action plan.

Hold regular meetings and hold training on relevant skills.

Implement a “phone tree” (more on that later) and take action steps.

Ways to implement the steps

Step 1
Talk with your fellow neighbors about their concerns regarding crime and safety in the area. The primary concern in the initial phase of forming a Neighborhood Watch is to collect all of the information and develop a strategy to raise the level of awareness about concerns or issues. Get the word out about the identified problems and begin to recruit individuals who want to form the “core” Watch group. This core group will be responsible for recruiting others, meeting with local law enforcement, and building or revitalizing the Neighborhood Watch program.

Step 2
Once the community concerns or neighborhood issues have been identified, citizens should meet with local law enforcement agency representatives to learn how to work together. Law enforcement officials such as police officers or sheriff’s deputies will be able to help the citizens formalize their Neighborhood Watch. They’ll register with USAonWatch to become part of the national initiative against crime and terrorism.

Step 3
At an early meeting, citizen volunteers may take the initiative to prioritize concerns, and the police or sheriff’s department may want to implement crime reduction strategies. Conduct a meeting on strategic planning and identify the concerns and resources available. There needs to be a strong focus on specific objectives and realistic milestones.

Step 4
Once the Watch group has been formed, and goals and objectives determined, Watch leaders and citizen volunteers should schedule meetings where they can receive training and hone their skills in crime prevention and community policing. Local law enforcement can help, and citizens can offer important crime and terrorism prevention services once they receive the proper training and instruction.

Keep the group active and enthusiastic

Step 5
Take active steps in the community so everyone is aware about the Watch.

  • Have a kickoff event to encourage others to get involved
  • Start a Neighborhood Watch newsletter
  • Continue training and emergency drills
Most importantly, keep the group active and enthusiastic by maintaining communication between group members and the law enforcement liaison.

Keeping things interesting:
Motivational Neighborhood Watch Activity Ideas


Write your own Neighborhood Watch newsletter. Keep people up to date on crime or other subjects of interest.


Arrange with some of your neighbors to run, walk. or bike regularly. While doing this you may notice subtle changes or unusual activity in your neighborhood.


Pitch in together and buy an ad for a big neighborhood sale. You can use the money to purchase signs, radios. and vests for your Neighborhood Watch group.


Rent a dumpster for a weekend. Neighbors can share tools and expertise to help one another. Cap the day with a barbecue or a night of desserts and visiting.


Develop a game plan for emergencies. Who has a gas stove? Four-wheel drive vehicle? Does anyone have special needs? Identify your neighborhood resources.


Join training sessions given by volunteers. Some suggested topics are observation skills, what observations to report to police, first aid training, and community disaster training.


Get together every 3-6 months to reconnect, keep it fun and light.


Politicians and community service groups could share what is happening with your group.

Group Activities
  • Help neighbors trim bushes and trees for better visibility.
  • Help remove graffiti right away.
  • Invite the fire department to talk about fire prevention and disaster preparedness.
  • Get each neighbor to make their house numbers easy to see at night.
  • Help each other reinforce door frames, hinges, and locks for windows.


People need to feel appreciated when they give up time for their community. In order to keep Watch group members involved and excited, take time out to recognize them. Some suggestions for rewards are a gift certificate for volunteer service or a gift for participation.