How Effective Are Community Watch Programs?

Knowing your local security options.


September 18, 2020

3 134 How-Effective-Are-Community-Watch-Programs Desktop

A neighborhood or community watch program is an organized group of citizens devoted to crime-prevention within a community. Members of a given community agree together to keep an eye on one another’s properties, patrolling the street – and reporting suspicious incidents to the police. The Neighborhood Watch is a community crime prevention program that was launched by the National Sheriffs’ Association in 1972 to encourage citizens to look out for each other, work on neighborhood problems, and make themselves safer.

Why do community watch programs exist?

Community watch is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most well-known crime prevention programs in history. The aim of these groups is to promote education for residents of a community to have a safe and secure neighborhood. In general, when criminal activity is suspected, members are encouraged to report to authorities, and not to intervene. In general, community watch programs strive to promote awareness and efficiency when acting on suspicious activity. With such large investments and resources from the community, it is important to ask: are community watch programs effective in reducing crime? 

How do they work?

Neighborhood or community watch programs often go by various names and include both nationally recognized and local organizations. These programs or organizations can be initiated either by the public or the police. The funding of community watch programs is nearly always a joint venture between the local police department and the program members through their fundraising activities. 

What do they do?

Once the watch group is up and running, neighbors must remember to keep their eyes open. No matter how many police patrols go through a community each day, no one knows their own neighborhood better than the people who live there. Community watch program members will take turns watching a street or designated area of the community. Upon noticing suspicious activity or an emergency, the group will contact the authorities or emergency services to mitigate the issue. Sometimes, community watch members will create the illusion of occupancy for members of the community who are out of town. This includes removing newspapers from outside neighbors’ homes when they are away, mowing the lawn, and filling up trash cans. 

Depending on the scope of the program, watch associations can do everything from encouraging homeowners to get security systems, conduct security inspections, and upgrade locks, security hardware and lighting to organizing contact lists for quick neighborhood alerts. Watch groups also ward off potential criminal activity by keeping the neighborhood well-marked with watch signs and stickers on homes — the kinds of things that make thieves think twice.

How effective are they?

According to a study done by The Crime Prevention Research Review, most areas associated with a neighborhood watch pointed to lower levels of crime. It has been argued that visible surveillance might reduce crime because of its deterrent effect on the perceptions and decision-making of potential offenders. Offenders may notice the spike in community surveillance, and in turn decide not to strike or possibly target a different area. 

While there are various studies on this topic, meta-analysis found that community watches were associated with a relative reduction in crime of about 16%. While any good measure to reduce crime is time and money well-spent, there are more effective ways to ensure the safety of your home and family. Brinks Home™ can provide affordable DIY security systems for any home. Our systems are monitored by our U.S.-based Alarm Response Center, so your home is always protected. Defend your home and your wallet with Brinks Home.

Lauren Slade is a Dallas-based writer and editor.

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