How to start a neighbourhood watch group
In the year ending 2015, around 3% of households were victims of domestic burglary, with around 750,000 incidents taking place1. This is a sobering statistic, and shows just how vital it is for us to take measures to protect ourselves and our homes. One of the ways to do this is by starting a neighbourhood watch group, which also has the added benefit of bringing together you and the people that live near you.
If you don’t know your neighbours too well, it can be daunting even thinking about starting a group, but being prepared and creating good links with the authorities will ensure it’s actually a very easy process.
What is neighbourhood watch?
A neighbourhood watch is a group of local people who watch out for each other’s homes and property to discourage burglars. The premise is that you keep an eye out for any criminal activity and alert authorities, with the community working together.
It not only provides reassurance, but enhances the safety of your area. 79% of people in a study that lasted 25 years said that neighbourhood watch was effective in reducing crime2, and it has the added benefit of helping you get to know those that live near you.
Do I live in a neighbourhood watch area?
You can check if you live in a neighbourhood watch area here. Alternatively, you can call your local police force, and ask them if they’re partnered with any groups. They can then put you in touch with the relevant coordinator so you can get involved.
How to start a neighbourhood watch group
Work out if there’s demand
If there isn’t already a scheme in your area, it’s simple to set one up. The first thing you need to do is ensure there’s a demand for it. Speak to your neighbours and work out whether it’s something they can commit to and want. You don’t need everyone in the region to join, but obviously you’ll need enough people to make it effective.
Get in touch with your force area
Your force area Neighbourhood Watch Association will help you get to grips with any processes you need to follow, and will contact you with news from the wider area. If there isn’t one, you can start a force area association with help from the NHWA. They can provide downloadable materials like a constitution and other documentation templates.
Promote your group
To get more people involved in your group, there are a number of ways to spread the word. Some people prefer to use physical methods like posters or newspaper articles, and other prefer to use social media; specifically targeting community groups to gain new members.
You can also take the in-person option and go out canvassing door-to-door. That way neighbours will be able to put a face to a name of who’s starting the group and ask any questions.
You’ll need to appoint a coordinator who’ll act as a key contact for the police and other members of the scheme, as well as a deputy and possibly a treasurer.
Get the details down
Then you need to consider various things, like whether you’ll need to raise money for costs like newsletters and meetings, the best way to give information to members, and when and where you’ll meet. Writing this up as a best-practice document and giving it out to members will help make sure processes are known to everyone.
Keep the momentum going
Once you’ve got your members and you’re ready to go, it makes sense to set up a group on Facebook or WhatsApp so you can all chat to each other easily. Having face to face meetings monthly or quarterly will make sure everyone is on-track and knows what needs to be done.
After that it’s simply a case of working together to spot and report any crime and anti-social behaviour – and working out who brings the biscuits to the meetings!
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