Neighborhood Watch Programs
The security of the neighborhood is the key indicator for economic and social health stability. This makes neighborhood crime prevention efforts important. Safe neighborhoods are paramount to enhance common values and general community health where there is neighborhood crime fear and distrust among the residents prevail. As it has been observed, usually crime is common in poorer neighborhoods which have high populations. If this is not addressed it may contributes to community neglect and breakdown.
This is because there are few incentives to invest both economically or socially in such environment. People from neighborhood become suspicious to each other and this affects their cooperation (http://www. solutionsforamerica. org/thrivingneigh/crime-prevention. html, n. d. ). Neighborhood watch program therefore is a program design to prevent a crime that stresses education and common sense that involved an organized group of citizens who are committed to crime and vandalism prevention within a neighborhood.
It informs how the citizens can help themselves to identify and report suspicious activity around their neighborhoods. Besides this it provides citizens with an opportunity to make their neighborhoods safer and hence improve the quality of life. This program features on observation and creating awareness as a way of preventing crime by employing strategies that range from simply promoting social interactions and watching out each other by groups of citizens who are on active patrol.
In America, neighborhood watch started in 1960s as a response to the rape and murder of Kityy Genovese in Queens, New York. Community after receiving bad news of Genovese’ deaths and that no witness could apprehend the killer, community decided to organize itself into local groups and start crime watch. However, the actual model for what came to be Neighborhood Watch program was developed by the National Sheriff Association in 1972 (http://www.
ci. annapolis. md. us/info. asp? page=2600, 2002). Initially it was started in attempt to stop burglary that was increasing at high rate. It was observed that burglary rate was significantly brought down through the assistance of the citizens in the community by observation and reporting of any suspicious and criminal activity. In United Kingdom Neighborhood Watch program also has been established to make the community safer.
It includes the police, community safety departments that include local authorities, volunteering organizations and individuals and families who are interested in making neighborhood a better place. The first Neighborhood Watch program in United Kingdom was started in Millington, Cheshire, England after success of similar projects in United States. Since then there are many Neighborhood Watch program with over ten million participants.
The core objectives which made people in UK to come up with Neighborhood Watch were to prevent crime by improving security and creating and maintaining a caring community with reduction in opportunities that may favor crime through crime prevention awareness, to assist the police in detecting crime by promoting effective communication and timely reporting of suspicious and criminal activity, to reduce undue crime fear by provision of accurate information about crime risks and promoting a sense of security and also foster police and community liaison through Neighbor Watch messaging system.
These schemes are run by members through coordinator and are being supported with by the police and local Neighborhood Watch Associations. The main role of the coordinator is to set up and maintain neighborhood Watch scheme within a specific street or area and be in close contact with the crime prevention coordinator at nearest police stations who is responsible in making clarification of what happened and which steps should be taken.
When the coordinator receives the crime information from the Neighborhood Watch messaging system he then distributes it to other scheme members. It is his responsibility to encourage the scheme members to put into practice crime prevention measures such property making and security devices. He checks on vulnerable households and provides advice to the members on dealing callers at the door. It is his duty to circulate newsletters and any other relevant information to scheme members.
These are only sample of the main activities that a coordinator does but may vary greatly according to the community needs. In Russia Voluntary People’ Druzhina is translated as Voluntary People’s Guard in Soviet Union is similar to Neighborhood Watch existed in early times but was later reestablished in 1992 through public law enforcement organizations. Basically it shares common features as other forms of Neighborhood watch (Greene, 2006).
Crime prevention is a jointly responsibility that need to be shared equally between the law enforcement and private citizens. This concept is seen to be effective because the impact of crime prevention by law enforcers alone is little as when compared with the power of private citizens working with law enforcement. It is based on cooperation. It has been observed that when citizens take positive move towards securing their own property and neighbors also learn how to report suspicious activity burglary and related offences reduces.