Recently, we’ve been discussing how members of The ShieldWall Network can become persons of influence in their community through, among other things, helping to establish a Neighborhood Watch program in their area.

For more than 40 years, Neighborhood Watch programs have been helping communities raise awareness and minimize crime. The program, originally started by the National Sherriff’s Association to help curb rising crime rates, is now an American institution.

Neighborhood Watch program benefits include crime reduction, better overall quality of life for community members, increased sense of personal control and responsibility for security, improved community unity and pride, and productive partnerships with local law enforcement.

Our last ShieldWall Network article covered phase one of starting your Neighborhood Watch, which is getting your neighbors excited and on-board with the Watch idea. This piece will discuss phase 2 of organizing your Watch, assigning and organizing responsibilities.

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. This will help you get to know your area, and your neighbors, which is a crucial part of The ShieldWall Network, as well. 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 to the neophytes 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.

We all want to live in a safe, friendly place where we know we’ll be okay on an evening stroll, an early morning run, or while we dream the night away. But great neighborhoods just don’t happen – the people who live there pitch in to create the kind of place they enjoy living in.

Paraphrased from Derek Paulson of Prepared Patriot.