Neighborhood Watch is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most well known crime prevention concepts in history. While the modern day concept of Neighborhood Watch came into prominence in the late 1960’s in response to an increasing burglary rate, its roots in America can actually be traced all the way back to the days of Colonial settlements when night watchmen patrolled the streets.
The National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) took this crime prevention concept a step further by making it a national initiative...the National Neighborhood Watch Program. The program was developed in response to a multitude of requests from Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs around the Country. Law enforcement leaders were looking for a crime prevention program that would incorporate citizen involvement, and that would address the increasing number of burglaries taking place, especially in rural and suburban residential areas.
Funding was sought and obtained from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) in 1972, and thus, the National Neighborhood Watch Program was born. Since that time the concept has taken on different names and forms, i.e., Neighborhood Watch, Crime Watch, Block Watch, Citizen’s on Patrol, etc. No matter what it is called, it is a community based program that’s been proven to deter crime.
The first two years of the program were devoted to disseminating information on the nature and volume of burglary, and providing information on how to secure residential property and make it less vulnerable to break-ins. From there, it evolved to promoting the establishment of ongoing local neighborhood watch groups where citizens could work in conjunction with their law enforcement agencies in an effort to reduce burglaries and other neighborhood crimes.
Throughout the years, Neighborhood Watch has grown from an ‘extra eyes and ears’ approach to crime prevention to a much more proactive, community-oriented endeavor. Neighborhood Watch groups are now incorporating activities that not only address crime prevention issues, but also restore pride and unity to a neighborhood. It is not uncommon to see Neighborhood Watch groups participating in neighborhood cleanups and other activities that impact the quality of life for community residents.
The adoption of community policing by local law enforcement agencies has also contributed to the resurgence in watch groups over the years. Neighborhood Watch fits nicely within the framework of law enforcement/community partnerships, and Neighborhood Watch meetings can be a useful forum to discuss neighborhood problems and practice problem-solving techniques.