Neighborhood Watch, Block Watch, Town Watch, Apartment Watch, Crime Watch — no matter what it’s called, this is one of the most effective and least costly answers to crime.
Watch groups are a foundation of community crime prevention; they can be stepping stones to community revitalization. Watch groups are an association of neighbors who look out for each other’s families and property, alert the police to any suspicious activities or crime in progress and work together to make their community a safer and better place to live.
If you think a Neighborhood Watch would be appropriate for your neighborhood, here are some tips on forming a Watch group:
Step one: Getting started
- Hold an initial meeting with the residents in your neighborhood to:
- Gauge neighbors’ interest
- Discuss the neighborhood watch concept
- Identify any issues that need to be addressed
- Contact your Community Resource Officer or the Asheville Police Department Community Unit at 828-271-6145 for information on Neighborhood Watch programs and local crime problems. They would be happy to help.
- Publicize your meeting at least one week in advance. Use door-to-door fliers, phone calls, or social media to connect with neighbors.
- Select a meeting place that is accessible to people with disabilities.
Step two: Forming your watch group
- Complete the online Neighborhood Watch Registration and submit it to the Asheville Police Department.
- Elect a chairperson.
- Ask for Block Captain volunteers who are responsible for relaying information to members on their block, keeping up-to-date information on residents, and making special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people. Block Captains also can serve as liaisons between the neighborhood and the police and communicate information about meetings and crime incidents to all residents.
- Establish a regular means of communicating with Watch members, for example, through Facebook, Nextdoor, SMS texting, newsletter, telephone tree, and e-mail.
- Prepare a neighborhood map showing names, addresses, and contact information of participating households and distribute it to members. Block Captains keep this map up to date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and rechecking occasionally with ongoing participants.
- With guidance from the police department, the Watch can train its members in home security techniques, observation skills, and crime reporting. Residents also learn about the types of crime that affect the area.
- If you are ready to post Neighborhood Watch signs, the police department will provide street signs and window decals to residents actively participating in the Watch program.
- Organizers and block captains must emphasize that Watch groups are not vigilantes and do not assume the role of the police. They only ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring—and to report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the police.
Tips for Success
- Hold regular meetings to help residents get to know each other and to collectively decide upon program strategies and activities.
- Consider linking with an existing organization, such as a citizens’ association, community development office, tenants’ association, or housing authority.
- Involve everyone in the neighborhood.
- Team up with the police Community Resource Officer assigned to your area. These officers are major sources of information on local crime patterns, home security, crime prevention education, and crime reporting.
- Get information out quickly. Share all kinds of news and quash rumors.
- Gather the facts about crime in your neighborhood. Check police reports and learn residents’ perceptions about crime. Often residents’ opinions are not supported by facts, and accurate information can reduce the fear of crime.
- It’s essential to celebrate the success of the effort and recognize volunteers’ contributions through such events as awards, dinners, and parties. To help meet community needs, Neighborhood Watches can sponsor meetings that address broader issues such as drug abuse, gangs, personal safety, scams & frauds, identity theft, and internet safety.
- Don’t forget events like National Night Out or a potluck dinner that gives neighbors a chance to get together. Such items as pins, t-shirts, hats, or coffee mugs with the group’s name also enhance identity and pride.
Submit the Neighborhood Watch Registration Form at least annually to keep the Police Department up-to-date on your group and to update contact information.
- Neighborhood Watch Flyer
- Neighborhood Watch Sign-in Sheet
- Neighborhood Watch Booklet
- Neighborhood Watch Registration Form
Asheville Police Department