Meet like-minded neighbors and then utilize technology
The most important step is making contact with neighbors to see if there is interest in starting a Neighborhood Watch program. Once that has been done, former LMPD sergeant Todd Brimm suggests that neighbors “build a foundation fast using social media such as nextdoor.com.” Neighbors can quickly and easily share pertinent information online. “Information is the lifeblood of a neighborhood watch,” Brimm says. Some Neighborhood Watch groups utilize closed Facebook groups to share information about current happenings.
The next step is to call the local police compound or MetroCall (311) to notify the police that a Neighborhood Watch is being formed and to request a liaison. This liaison has multiple functions, including being the source of pertinent information that may impact the neighborhood such as how many car thefts have been reported in the surrounding area. Brimm says, “You have to establish a working relationship with the police department.”
Have a meeting (or two or three)
The police liaison will help you set up a meeting to bring together interested neighbors. At the meeting, the officer will provide information on crime statistics for the area and answer neighbors’ questions. Neighbors can then begin the work of organizing the neighborhood into sections, naming section captains and co-captains, and determining what issues the neighbors would like to address in the Neighborhood Watch program.
Brimm says neighbors who are developing a program need to “set their goals high, but keep their expectations low.” It can take years for a Neighborhood Watch to develop and flourish, but persistence is the key. Of course, it is important to understand that persistence can become annoying if it isn’t well-managed. Brimm recommends having quarterly or bi-annual block-watch meetings and periodically sending out information via email or social media so that neighbors don’t feel bombarded.
Because Neighborhood Watch groups can take a long time to develop, Brimm says volunteers have to get help. He suggests rotating leadership every six months to a year to keep volunteers from getting burnt out.
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Photos by Patti Hartog