Neighborhood Watch Coordinators Handbook
Initial Set Up
• Tell your neighbors about any recent crime activity or problems in the area. They may be unaware! Ask the Sheriff’s Office for a summary of local crime activity to share with your neighbors.
• Ask which evenings your neighbors are available. Generally, neighborhood meetings are conducted at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
• Take this opportunity to get acquainted on a first-name basis. This is vital to the success of your Neighborhood Watch! Exchange phone numbers, e-mails etc. Tell your neighbors that you will notify them when a meeting is scheduled.
• After a substantial amount of community interest is expressed, it would be time to contact the Sheriff’s Office for help in training members in home security and reporting skills and for information on local crime patterns. You should indicate approximately how many households your Neighborhood Watch includes.
• Gather the facts about crime in your neighborhood. Check crime reports, talk to victims of neighborhood crime, and learn the residents’ perceptions about crime. Often facts do not support residents’ opinions, and accurate information can reduce fear of crime.
• Setting the date, select a secure a location, close to your area, to hold the meeting. Local churches, library and schools are usually very cooperative. Be sure to select a meeting place that is accessible to people with disabilities.
• Advertising the meeting is very important! Be creative with handouts and personal or phone contacts. Let everyone know when and where the meeting will be held. Create flyers that announce the date, time, location and topic of your meeting (sample flyer or letter of invitation). Neighborhood Watch pamphlets are available from the Sheriff’s Office.
• The Coordinator or Block Captain will then fill out and deliver invitations, pamphlets, and a cover letter to each resident in the targeted area. Distribute the fliers, in person, seven to ten days beforehand. Have neighbors help pass out the fliers.
• Two or three days before the meeting remind your neighbors in person or by phone.
• Contact the Sheriff’s Office 14 to 21 days in advance and inform them of the date and place of the first meeting, call to verify that a deputy will be able to attend.
First Meeting & Kick Off
• The first meeting is basically a social event and information sharing time. The Sheriff’s Deputy will be speaking to your group, will tell you about your Sheriff’s Office Agency, and how Neighborhood Watch can help your community. The primary goal of the first meeting is to gauge the expected participation in the program and to create an understanding for the need for Neighborhood Watch.
• After the meeting you will need to begin selecting the Neighborhood Watch Coordinator and the Block Captains. You will need either a single individual to fill the Coordinator’s position or team. You will need one Block Captain for certain number of homes (i.e., every ten homes).
• The Coordinator should call a meeting with the Block Captains to plan which form you will use to register the members and to select a target date to officially start the Neighborhood Watch.
• Draw a large map of all the streets and households to be covered by your Neighborhood Watch. Start with a manageable number of homes at first, you can always add other areas.
• Block Captains should attempt to register every home in your assigned block. Compile a master list of all members. Prepare a Neighborhood Map showing names, addresses, and phone numbers of participating households and distribute to members. Block captains will keep this map up to date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and occasionally rechecking with ongoing participants.
• You may want to include names and ages of their children, work and school schedules, and whether or not their homes have burglar alarms or timers on lights. While some of this information may seem somewhat personal to neighbors who you have just met, it is essential that they make a commitment to the WATCH effort at this stage and agree to work together.
• Establishing a regular means of communicating with Watch Members – e.g. newsletter, telephone tree, e-mail, fax, etc. Get the information out quickly. Share all kinds of news to quash rumors.
• When your group has finished the initial organizing, you need to have a day to officially start the Neighborhood Watch. This will be the Kick off Day.
• We recommend that you pick a weekend or evening when everyone in the group will be invited to a special event such as a Block Party or a Community Rally. It never hurts to have food and special events planned.
• Try to have the meeting in or near your Watch area. This will draw attention to your group and will encourage others in the area to want to become a part of your program
• You may want to invite the media to cover your events. This is a good way to tell the community about your program and how your neighborhood is fighting back against crime. Work with local media – newspapers, radio, TV Stations – to publicize events and thank supporters.
• Have the big Kick Off event and begin the process of helping to reduce crime in your community.
• Once your Neighborhood Watch Program is organized and a good percentage of the residents have agreed to participate in the program. The Sheriff’s Office will furnish your neighborhood a highly visible Neighborhood Watch Sign for each entrance to your Watch area. Also your neighborhood will be furnished with an ample supply of Neighborhood Watch decals to identify participating homes and streets.
• Crime Prevention Topics Should Be Part of Your Regularly Scheduled Meetings: At regularly scheduled meetings you should address immediate crime problems, focus on home security, and build neighborhood cohesion. Such topics may include:
Crime in schools
• Determine the time and place of the next meeting. The members of the group should determine how often they will meet, but to keep the momentum going during the start-up phase, it is best to schedule monthly meetings.
• Neighborhood Watch meetings are essential in organizing and training the participants, and supplying them with crime prevention procedures, and reinforcing the Neighborhood Watch concepts and commitment. These meetings are also instrumental in establishing a bond between group members.