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Crime Prevention

Neighborhood Watch

Starting a Neighborhood Watch

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 a stepping stone to community revitalization.

Phase One: Getting Started — Meetings, Block Captains and Maps

  • Form a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, possible challenges, and the Watch concept.
  • Contact the local police or sheriffs’ department, or local crime prevention organization, to discuss Neighborhood Watch and local crime problems. Invite a law enforcement officer to attend your meeting.
  • Publicize your meeting at least one week in advance with door-to-door fliers and follow up with phone calls the day before.
  • Select a meeting place that is accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Hold an initial meeting to gauge neighbors’ interest; establish purpose of program; and begin to identify issues that need to be addressed. Stress that a Watch group is 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.

Phase Two: When the neighborhood decides to adopt the Watch Idea, 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—e.g., newsletter, telephone tree, e-mall, fax, etc.
  • Prepare a neighborhood map showing names, addresses, and phone numbers of participating households and distribute to members. Block captains keep this map up to date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and rechecking occasionally with ongoing participants.
  • With guidance from a law enforcement agency, the Watch trains 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, check with law enforcement to see if they have such eligibility requirements as number of houses that participate in the program. Law enforcement may also be able to provide your program with signs. If not, they can probably tell you where you can order them.
  • 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.
  • The Watch concept is adaptable. There are Park Watches, Apartment Watches, Window Watches, Boat Watches, School Watches, Realtor Watches, Utility Watches, and Business Watches. A Watch can be organized around any geographic unit.

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, housing authority.
  • Canvas door-to-door to recruit members.
  • Involve everyone –young and old, single and married, renter and homeowner.
  • Gain support from the police department. This is critical to a Watch group’s credibility. The agency are the major sources of information on local crime patterns, home security, other crime prevention education and crime reporting.
  • Get the information out quickly. Share all kinds of news — discredit rumors.
  • Gather the facts about crime in your neighborhood. Check police reports, do victimization surveys, and learn residents’ perceptions about crime. Often residents’ opinions are not supported by facts, and accurate information can reduce fear of crime.
  • Physical conditions like abandoned cars or overgrown vacant lots contribute to crime. Sponsor cleanups, encourage residents to beautify the area, and ask them to turn on outdoor lights at night.
  • It’s essential to celebrate the success of the effort and recognize volunteers’ contributions through such events as awards, annual dinners, and parties. To help meet community needs, Neighborhood Watches can sponsor meetings that address broader issues such as drug abuse, gangs, self-protection tactics, isolation of the elderly, crime in the schools and rape prevention.
  • 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.

Neighborhood Watch Guidelines

  • Two (2) Neighborhood Watch meetings to get started
  • A Neighborhood Crime Watch Program presentation for the first meeting. A “Key Person” (or Coordinator) needs to be designated by the end of the first meeting and Block Captains should be designated for every 10 – 15 houses
  • Second meeting is scheduled within a month after the first meeting. Maps of the neighborhood will be obtained and Block Captains will be introduced to their assigned residences
  • Two (2) Neighborhood Watch signs installed. The new Neighborhood Watch sign has replaced the old yellow Crime Watch sign.
  • Tour of the Winter Haven Police Department
  • Upon establishment of the program, the community organizes a get-together of the neighborhood once a year.

Coordinator Duties

The Coordinator’s job is crucial to the success of your program. This may be the right job for a retiree or other individual who has extra time at home. This person’s responsibilities may include:

  • Expanding the program and maintaining a current list of participants and neighborhood residents, including names, addresses, home and work telephone numbers, and vehicle descriptions.
  • Acting as liaison between Neighborhood Watch members, law enforcement officers, civic groups, and block captains.
  • Arranging neighborhood crime prevention training programs
  • Obtaining and distributing crime prevention materials, such as stickers and signs
  • Encouraging participation in “Operation Identification,” a nationwide program in which personal property is marked with a unique identifying number to permit positive identification if valuables are lost or stolen.

Block Captain Duties

Block captains should be designated for every 10 – 15 houses and they should be directly involved with their immediate neighbors. The block captain’s responsibilities may include:

  • Acting as liaison between block residents and the Coordinator
  • Establishing a “telephone chain” by compiling and distributing a current list of names, address and telephone numbers of block participants
  • Visiting and inviting new residents to join NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH; notifying them of meetings and training sessions
  • Establishing the “Operation Identification” program
  • Contact each neighbor as often as possible to discuss possible crime problems, needs for assistance, and suggestions for program improvement.

Other Crime Prevention Resources


Read and download our monthly Crime Prevention Newsletters.



We offer many services through the Crime Prevention Unit.


Seniors vs. Crime

A valuable resource for our aging population who may have been victimized.


Other Crime Prevention Resources

Read and download our monthly Crime Prevention Newsletters

We offer many services through the Crime Prevention Unit.

Seniors versus Crime
A valuable resource for our aging population who may have been victimized.