How to build a better neighbourhood watch
We all want to take care of our homes and properties, to make them secure against burglars. But, is there more we can be doing in our neighbourhoods? Maybe there’s been a rise in crime in your local area, or you’re thinking there needs to be a better community that works together to help tackle crime. In any case, setting up a neighbourhood watch is one of the best things a neighbourhood can do to help with communication and crime prevention.
What exactly is a neighbourhood watch?
To have a neighbourhood watch is to have an organised community group that is dedicated to monitoring and preventing crime in a local area. Anything from vandalism to burglary, a neighbourhood watch scheme will hold regular meetings and have effective communication to help manage and report the area’s crime incidents. The entire focus is to help everyone in the neighbourhood better protect themselves, their families, their properties and the wider community through greater vigilance, improved home security, alertness, reporting and communication. You can join or set up a local neighbourhood watch scheme, just check whether your area already has one, but either way, there are many things you can do to help build a better neighbourhood watch.
Home security and driveway security
A strong neighbourhood watch is one that is good at deterring would-be burglars from the offset. Maybe you have a few neighbours who have driveway security and CCTV. Perhaps you’ve noticed they have window signs displaying their home security installation. The more neighbours that follow suit by having improved home security, the more likely burglars are going to scratch the area of their hit list.
What is driveway security, then? Or, rather the question should be, what is good driveway security? It’s simply having robust driveway gates along with gate access control. This technology means you have complete control of who enters your property through intercoms, keypads and video surveillance. Not only is this perfect for deterring intruders in the first place and keeping them out, but if you do see anything suspicious on your camera footage, you can use it for better reporting and to share with your neighbours.
Know who’s in charge
Especially if it’s a large group, you’ll probably need someone to take ownership or more of a lead on the watch. There may already be one in a scheme you’re joining; find out how it works and if you’d like to have the opportunity, enquire about it with the right people. You may find the group is set up by an alternating leader. Having clear knowledge about who to report to is going to make things run smoother. You don’t want to be messing up an agenda or sharing some important information that might get lost if somebody forgot to pass it on to the right person.
Technology and communication
Not too long ago, a neighbourhood watch could only be managed through face-to-face meetings. Nowadays, technology means we can communicate so much more effectively. We should be using technology to our advantage for so many things, and the neighbourhood watch is one of them.
You’ll find many watch schemes using apps like WhatsApp to form chat groups. Or it could be a Facebook group, an email thread or forum. Whatever the platform, keeping on top of suspicious activity and local incidents is made much easier, and communicating via social media or chat apps can keep everyone clued in without the difficult logistics of in-person meetings. It’s good to get those face-to-face meetings in where you can, but technology allows everyone to be alerted from wherever and whenever.
Accurate reporting ties in with effective communication and good home security. The more houses that have good home security, the more chance of accurate reporting thanks to footage. You can put things together as a community by sharing your evidence, clues and videos . To give the police the best chance in their investigations, a neighbourhood watch is especially advantageous for its shared, vital information. Again, using technology, you can share screenshots, images and video files of what’s been spotted in the local area or around your property. From there, others in the group could have information to add to help both the community and police.
It’s so important to have frequent meetings, and in person when possible. If that’s not workable, then choose a platform or tool that everyone can access and make sure before meetings are scheduled, everyone is confident in using them. In a neighbourhood, you’re obviously going to have a mix of demographics with ages, so some may struggle with technology. Once this is settled, set up a calendar of meetings with details provided well in advance, like who’s going to lead, who will take minutes, times, platforms and agenda etc. For any that can’t make it, have someone feedback notes, or you may want to have a summary shared in a group chat after every meeting.
Wherever you host a meeting, do remember to make them accessible for everyone by always checking who’s joining to see if you need to cater for any disabilities or needs. Set up agendas for your meetings to help everyone stay organised and be prepared so they can bring up more accurate information or reports.
Be hospitable and build a better neighbourhood community
Bringing a neighbourhood together can be a great experience and a way to create harmony, but of course, there may be times when there’s tension. Whilst a neighbourhood watch is there to help with crime prevention, it’s also a way to have neighbours communicate where disagreements may arise, whatever those may be.
For those in charge, it’s a case of making sure you provide comfortable settings – whether physical or abstract – by being hospitable. If a meeting is face-to-face, you could provide refreshments, or if it’s virtual, you may want to start it with a fun game or ice-breaker. These get-togethers are a way to build a better community and can be really positive, so it’s best to make sure you know more about the relationships between your neighbours to better manage any potential conflicts.
Work with local police
Following on from every meeting and general updates, you need a good system in place for next steps. Especially for vital information, make sure you have it organised so that a group or spokesperson for the watch can feed this back to your local neighbourhood police teams. Maybe you can get local police to also drop in on some sessions to feed back what they’re looking into and what they’re looking for from you, or any advice they may have. Some local police inspectors do get involved with neighbourhood watches by attending regular meetings.
Newsletters and community updates
Many neighbourhood watches produce newsletters, whether monthly or bi-monthly, to update the area on a number of things, from suspicious activity to positive work or community events. A newsletter can work well alongside continued communication, such as group chats, as they can be shared in groups and discussed further.
Action and reviewing
To build a better neighbourhood watch, you’ve got to take action. Keeping in touch and sharing over social media is great, but you need to be taking real steps, whether it’s with some feedback from a meeting, from the police or a recent incident. It could be posting leaflets to the wider area, arranging fundraising events to help someone with their home security, or a review on who will take the lead or how meetings should be organised. You may want to join forces with other neighbourhood watches in the surrounding area or borough. To keep a watch running at its optimum level, regular reviewing is needed.
Reporting a crime
Whether you’ve witnessed a crime or it’s happened to you, you should inform the police and try to gather as much information and evidence you can. Contact other witnesses and share any footage of the incident. In emergencies, the number to call is 999. If it’s not an emergency, but you need to report something, the non-emergency police line is 101.
You can also give information anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If you don’t wish to report yourself, someone else can do so for you.
And of course, keep your neighbours and the watch informed.
If you are updating your driveway security, you’re in the right place with The Expert Gate Company. Our friendly team is always on hand to help, so contact us today. And if you like what you hear or see, make sure to share with your neighbours!