The National Sheriffs' Association has supported local law enforcement in their efforts to build and encourage local community participation though Neighborhood Watch for the last 35 years. Communities have reduced crime and built strong partnerships with law enforcement throughout NSA's involvement with the program. However, the one thing that has contributed to the success of the program is the willingness of neighbors to help each other build a better community.
The basic principles behind the neighborhood watch program have been ingrained in much of society for thousands of years. Most Americans at some point or another are encouraged to give back to their community, what better way then to start in their own neighborhood. One of the most important things to a person is felling safe in their homes and neighborhoods. Neighborhood Watch is one way for a group to feel that safety and develop those links to build a better community.
It has been 35 years since NSA started the National Initiative for Neighborhood Watch. Many things have changed, grown, and developed throughout those years. Boris the Burglar has grown to be on of the most identified trademarks throughout the country. Burglaries and robberies have decreased. Communities have grown along with the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement. In 2002, NSA partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to expand the program to incorporate terrorism awareness, emergency preparedness, and all hazards training into the mission.
An expanded mission has given way to a new title for the national program-USAonWatch. Time-tested practices such as “eyes-and-ears” training and target-hardening techniques continue to be at the core of the program. As watch groups continue to grow, the roles of citizens have only become more multifaceted and tailored to local needs. Currently, there are more than 24,000 watch groups throughout the United States involved with over 2,500 law enforcement agencies.
Despite changes in society over the past 35 years, Neighborhood Watch is once concept that has remained strong throughout the years. The longevity of Neighborhood Watch is attributed to the fact that the program is flexible to suit the needs of watch community, and can be adapted to any environment (e.g., Cab Watch, Campus Watch, Ranch Watch, Marina Watch).
The strength of the program relies on local citizens and local law enforcement agencies, the following examples illustrate the strength and resourcefulness of communities building programs.
Chatham County Sheriffs' Office, NC - Neighborhood Watch is priority number one for the Chatham County Sheriffs' Office in Pittsboro, North Carolina. There past Neighborhood Watch programs have traditionally focused on property crime prevention. After assessing the needs of his community Sheriff Webster felt the community needed more than information on burglars. As a result, the Sheriff adopted a crime prevention philosophy of getting as many deputies in the communities as possible and passing along as much information as possible. Since the adoption of his philosophy by the Office there program has expanded. With a new direction the Office has expanded their traditional Neighborhood Watch Program to include Drug Awareness, Gang Awareness, Workplace Violence, and security check surveys.
After changing the focus of their Crime Prevention Program the number of reported property crimes fell more than 25 percent over the last two years and the percentage of stolen property recovered increased from 11 percent in 2001 to 40 percent in 2004. The Office continues to seek out ways to provided more resources t the citizens they serve.
Shenandoah Park Neighborhood Watch, MO - In the spring of 2003, residents of the Shenandoah Park Neighborhood in St. Charles County, Missouri, decided they were not going to take it anymore. Property damage, care and home break-ins, and several homes under surveillance by the local Drug Task Force prompted many neighbors to unite in an effort to clean up their neighborhood.
Once they conducted a meeting the group was amazed to discover the talents and resources available right in their own neighborhood. Those willing to help out included a web designer, graphic artist, sign construction expert, fire fighter, police officer and printer.
Almost two and a half years later, the list of accomplishments is tremendous! New street signs, a new lighted and landscaped entrance sign, a monthly newsletter for all neighborhood residents, a neighborhood website, and annual garage sale, Halloween parade, annual barbecue, a recycling program, and an active neighborhood patrol, are just some of the accomplishments. Above all the group believes the meetings and events give everyone a chance to get to know one another and that has made the largest impact. Many crimes have been foiled due to the renewed awareness by residents.
Orange County Sheriff's Office, CA - As the threat of disasters and terrorism faces all of our communities, the South Orange County Crime Prevention Unite developed a Disaster Preparedness Academy. The academy is an eight week course made available to Neighborhood Watch members. The American Red Cross, Fire Authority and ambulance services have joined with the unit to instruct citizens about different types of disasters, what they need to prepare for and how to incorporate plans for their own neighborhoods. Participants are then certified in CPR and first aid. The goal is to give each watch group the tools to provide a safe environment for their immediate neighborhoods.
Citizens are also provided instruction about how to rid their neighborhoods of drug deals by utilizing the Nuisance Abatement Laws. The Crime Prevention Unite was the first group to test the law in court and won the case. This procedure instills the importance of working together to achieve positive results for everyone. The unit works hard to identify potential training and programs that the citizens need to assist them in making their communities betters. Programs such as the Childhood Watch (safety program for students and their parents), Parent Project (a teen week parent training model for parents of defiant, challenging adolescents), Senior Citizen safety seminars, and much more has enhanced public safety for citizens in South Orange County.
Spokane County Sheriff's Office, WA - The Spokane County Sheriff's Office in Washington State has around 1,200 active Neighborhood Watch groups, with more scheduled to come on board. Quarterly newsletters are distributed and posted online to inform Watch groups about current crime statistics, training opportunities, and other crime prevention information. Monthly training seminars are provided for the public on topics ranging from drug prevention to domestic terrorism awareness. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office also has an active agency volunteer program for citizens, the Sheriff's Community-Oriented Policing Effort (SCOPE), which supports such activities as court monitoring, handicapped parking patrol, front desk assistance, and much more. SCOPE and Neighborhood Watch's partnership creates community trust in the programs, allowing for continued development of the Spokane Neighborhood Watch program.
NSA continues to stand ready to assist everyone in building relationships between law enforcement and citizens to improve, build, and change communities. We would like to thank you for your support, encouragement and belief in the program for the last 35 years and looks forward to working with each agency in the future.