Neighbourhood Watch, Block Watch, Town Watch, Crime Watch - whatever the name, it's one of the most effective and least costly ways to prevent crime and reduce fear. Neighbourhood Watch fights the isolation that crime both creates and feeds upon. It forges bonds among area residents, helps reduce burglaries and robberies, and improves relations between police and the communities that they serve.
A few concerned residents, a community organization or a law enforcement agency can spearhead the effort to organize a Watch. Members learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighbourhood, and report activities that raise their suspicions to the police or sheriff's office.
Watch groups are not vigilantes. They are extra eyes and ears for reporting crime and helping neighbours. Neighbourhood Watch helps build pride and serves as a springboard for efforts that address community concerns such as recreation for youth, child care, and affordable housing. One of the crimes most frequently reported to the police is residential burglary. It's also the most preventable. It doesn't take much or cost much to outsmart most burglars. They're usually not professionals, but rather people taking advantage of an easy target. Burglars may do more than steal things. If they're surprised by someone coming home or if they choose a home that's occupied, someone may get hurt.
Maintain your yard and keep ladders and tools inside when you're not using them. Don't hide your keys under the doormat or in a flowerpot. That's the first place burglars look! It's much better to give an extra key to a trusted neighbor.
Mark your valuable property like TVs, VCRs, computers, cameras and stereos with your driver's license number.
Keep a record of your property in a safe place. Install an alarm system for summoning emergency help. If you park your car outside, never leave a garage door opener in the car.
Make sure all exterior doors have good locks, at least deadbolt locks with a 1" throw. Always lock up when you go out, even if only for a minute. Secure sliding glass doors with bars or locks, or put a broom handle in the door track. Make sure your windows have good locks, especially those at ground level. Make sure all porches, entrances, and outside areas are well lit. Trim any bushes or trees that hide doors or windows.
When you go away, ask a neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers, and offer to return the favor. Put an automatic timer on at least two lights and a radio. Consider photo-electric sensors to turn outside lights on and off automatically. Tell a trusted neighbor when you're leaving and when you'll return. Include an itinerary and phone numbers where you can be reached in an emergency.
There's more to crime prevention than locks and lighting. The fact is, concerned neighbours who watch out for each other are the frontline defences against crime.
Get to know your neighbours and discuss your concerns about the neighbourhood. Be alert to things that invite crime like poor street lighting,boarded up buildings, a lack of recreational activities or jobs for teens, vacant lots littered with debris and inadequate daycare and after school programs. Work with law enforcement, civic groups, schools, churches and service clubs to solve the problems. Alert law enforcement to suspicious activities and any crimes. Report nonworking street lights, abandoned houses and other problems.
Join a Neighbourhood Watch group. If there's no Watch organization in your neighbourhood, start one with help from local law enforcement and community groups.