What is Neighborhood Watch?

Sidebar to the article Preventing Neighborhood Crime: Geography Matters by Ronald E. Wilson and Timothy H. Brown, with Beth Schuster

Neighborhood Watch is a crime-prevention program that brings community members together and teaches them how to make their neighborhoods safer by using basic crime prevention techniques and identifying and reporting suspicious activity. Supported by the National Sheriffs' Association since 1972, the program encourages residents to act as the "eyes and ears" of local law enforcement and to take steps to make their homes and property less vulnerable to break-ins and vandalism.[1] Many Neighborhood Watch programs are also a means to prepare neighbors to work as a team in planning responses to disasters.

Not all of the programs in place today are limited to the boundaries and tenets of "Neighborhood Watch"; variations include block watch, apartment watch, home watch, citizen alert and community watch. However, each adaptation shares the common goal of bringing community members together to fight crime.

Neighborhood Watch programs vary in size of the area covered: Some cover just a few households, others cover thousands of homes. Volunteers who donate time and resources are typically at the center of programs because many do not have formal budgets or funding sources. Most are started with assistance from law enforcement.

Programs typically use street signs to show the program's presence and deter potential offenders, alerting them that the risk of detection and apprehension has increased. Some also offer programs that target youth, such as athletic activities, drug programs and tutoring, to provide young people with alternative and positive activities. For more information on Neighborhood Watch, go to http://www.nnw.org/ .


[note 1] National Sheriffs' Association, "Neighborhood Watch Program "; and Holloway, K., T. Bennett, and D.P. Farrington, Crime Prevention Research Review No. 3: Does Neighborhoo​d Watch Reduce Crime? Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, April 2008.

Date Created: June 15, 2009