Neighborhood Watch Programs Prove Effective
Neighborhood Watch programs in communities throughout the United States are successful because of the involvement of residents and businesses through effective communication, crime prevention awareness, and cooperation with local law enforcement. The Kirkland Police Department encourages Kirkland residents to become involved in a Neighborhood Watch program. Businesses are also encouraged to participate.
What is a Neighborhood Watch Program?
A Neighborhood Watch volunteer program is a group of people living in the same area who want to make their neighborhood safer by working together and in conjunction with local law enforcement to reduce crime and improve their quality of life. Neighborhood Watch groups have regular meetings to plan how they will accomplish their specific goals and assign responsibilities to group members.
Neighborhood Watch encourages citizens to help themselves by identifying and reporting suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. Neighborhood Watch groups typically focus on observation and awareness as a means of preventing crime and employ strategies that range from simply promoting social interaction and "watching out for each other" to active patrols by groups of citizens.
About “Block Watch”
A common Neighborhood Watch Program is when a neighborhood creates a Block Watch as a means to educate neighbors about crime prevention, crime awareness, and notification when something unusual or suspicious occurs within the certain area (e.g. block or street). A Block Watch can be created for a group of businesses within a complex or shopping center. A Block Watch has one simple premise: Watch out for one another.
Neighbors in a Block Watch are encouraged to keep an eye on what’s happening; you know your neighborhood or business center the best. By having a communications network, connection to the Kirkland Police, and tools on how to prevent crime in your neighborhood, your home, or you business, you’ll have a successful Block Watch.
Getting Started with Your Block Watch
The Kirkland Police Department has limited resources to help you create and sustain a Block Watch but hopes the following information and related links get you on your way. The City does not offer Neighborhood/Block Watch signs or has the resources to support Operation Identification.
Below are links to informational brochures on forming a Block Watch:
Step 1: Form a small volunteer planning committee
- Hold a initial neighborhood meeting to introduce the program and recruit volunteers
Step 2: Select a Block Watch Captain and Co-Captain
- These volunteers will coordinate communications among neighbors and with the Police Department, maintain a phone tree, and help to host Block Watch activities on a regular basis.
Step 3: Enlist help from others
- Use your neighborhood communications (association meetings, flyers, email and websites) to recruit participants.
Step 4: Gather crime statistics for your neighborhood by using CrimeMapping.com. By having the facts about what crime is happening in your neighborhood, you will be better prepared to raise awareness, report it, and prevent it.
Step 5: Create a Phone Tree and/or Neighbor Map
Create a Phone Tree
Phone trees are a great way to share information and build a sense of community in your neighborhood. Phone trees can expedite emergency information. Neighborhoods can be divided into small, workable areas using streets or natural boundaries. Each group prepares a chart (which is continuously updated) that includes the names and phone numbers of all members. A Block Captain or other person is designated to be contacted by the police or sheriff’s office. Each individual listed on the tree knows whom he or she is to contact should emergency or other important information need to be disseminated in a hurry.
When do you use the phone tree?
- After calling 911, alert your neighbors to an emergency in progress or that one has just occurred such as a cougar sighting, hazardous material spills, major traffic accidents, acts of nature, etc.
- To control rumors about crime in the neighborhood that you have verified or found false.
Why should the Phone Tree be used?
- When someone has urgent information to share (e.g. prowler in the area), they activate the telephone tree by calling the name at the top – the group representative.
- When you receive a call, call the next person listed under your name. If he or she is not home, call the next listed person down until you get an adult at home.
- The last neighbor to receive a call, calls the representative to confirm that they have received the message.
- It is best to practice the telephone tree on a periodic basis so that problems in the process can be fixed.
- Email can be used for not-in-progress crimes, meeting announcements, and general information
Creating a map of your participating neighbors is a helpful tool to show who lives where and who is participating in your Block Watch. It will be a helpful tool when you describing suspicious activity to the 9-1-1 dispatcher.
The map should include streets, directional marker indicating North, landmarks, and houses (or businesses) with addresses on the block. Contact information can be listed in each box that depicts a house or occupied building (e.g. church or school).
What to Watch For
Citizens are often hesitant to call 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity. If the activity looks “out of the ordinary” to you, you should call immediately (and don’t assume your neighbor has reported it). You should look for:
- Strange vehicles, suspicious persons, and people removing valuables from homes or vehicles are good indicators that something may be wrong. Also, listen for the sound of breaking windows or wood, or screams that indicate fear.
- People going door to door or driving around the neighborhood.
- People being forced into cars, anyone shining a flashlight into a home, or people loitering.
If you see something suspicious, write down a description of the person and their vehicle (including make, model, color, and license number). Then call police (911) immediately.