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Neighbourhood Watch Programs – Are They Effective?
About 40% of Americans live in areas that have a neighborhood watch program.
Most people believe that neighborhood watch schemes reduce crime.
It makes sense for people to watch out for one another. It also makes sense for communities to cooperate with police to fight crime.
The first neighborhood watch schemes appeared in the early 1970s. The National Sheriffs Association backed the idea, which it continues to do today.
We have already looked at some of the benefits of neighborhood watch programs. Benefits that go far beyond crime prevention.
But, the most important questions for many people is; are neighborhood watches effective. Do they cut crime?
How Does a Neighborhood Watch Operate?
The push to set up a Neighborhood watch may come from the local police or from members of the community.
Watches are usually organized by block captains, who coordinate the members’ activities. They are also responsible for liaising with the police.
The role of a community watch is to be the eyes and ears of the police. And, to educate the local community on crime prevention.
Members of the watch will usually take turns watching a part of the neighborhood. They may also patrol the area on foot.
The role of a Neighborhood watch is to report suspicious activity to the police. The group should not intervene if a crime is being committed.
Close cooperation with the police is essential for a successful nationhood watch. The watch must not become a vigilante group.
Do Neighborhood Watches Cut Crime?
Quantifying whether community watches cut crime is not easy. One reason for this is that neighborhood watches are often set up in areas of low crime.
Citizens who live in areas with high crime rates are often reluctant to get involved in community schemes. Especially schemes that involve the police. There is also a mistrust of neighbors in some areas.
The other issue is whether a watch reduces crime or increase the crime detection rate. There is also the question of whether citizen policing prevents crime or moves crime to another location.
Studies do show, though, that neighborhood watch programs do have a positive effect.
Neighborhood Watches Reduce Crime
An analysis published by the National Crime Prevention Council showed that citizen policing programs were responsible for a reduction in crime.
The analysis collated the results of 18 other research projects from the US, the UK, and Canada. The result of the analysis showed that there was a 16% reduction in crime in areas with watch programs.
While that 16% is a small favorable effect, that was the average figure. Some neighborhoods experienced much higher reductions in crime.
Are Neighborhood Watches the Best Way to Protect Your Home?
The stats do show that Neighborhood watches do have a positive effect on crime rates.
The knowledge that citizens are watching out for crime must deter some criminals. Even if the criminals only move on the next Neighborhood. Neighborhood watch programs also have other benefits for the community.
You cannot though, expect a community watch to eliminate crime.
You still need to take your own precautions, such as installing a home security system. Neighborhood watches can help in this area as well. They can encourage people to take more responsibility for their own home security.
Neighborhood watches do reduce crime. They also bring many other benefits to a community.
When combined with individual citizens’ own home security precautions, Neighborhood watches are effective.
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