Call the cops
Nothing beats a first-hand account of the crimes happening in your neighborhood. Get it by inviting the local police department to send its community outreach officer to your neighborhood watch meeting. The officer can share crime updates for your area and train everyone to use the weapons of choice—eyes, ears, and a phone—for the competent neighbor watcher. “Nothing is more hazardous to a criminal than a witness,” says Ted Cimino, a watch captain in Surprise, Ariz.
Why stop there? Tap the state police, sheriff, constables, district attorneys, and the local bar association for speakers, too.
Put the neighbor in neighborhood watch
You don’t want your neighbors to groan at the thought of going to some boring meeting after working all day. Keep your neighborhood watch meetings short (no longer than an hour), offer refreshments, and keep the discussion lively by getting people to honestly share opinions.
Controversy is interesting. So use meetings to air concerns. A Manassas, Va., watch group confronted police about a facility in their neighborhood that housed paroled sex offenders. “The police brought in their parole officer to show us how closely these people were being monitored, which put our minds at ease,” says Cindy Brookshire, a neighborhood watch captain in the area.
If your neighbors have a mix of different schedules, vary the times and days of your neighborhood watch meetings so that everyone gets a chance to attend.
Keep it spicy
It sounds simple, but the same old agenda will lead to dropouts. Pepper meetings with a variety of topics, speakers, and presentation tactics, like videos.
All watching and no fun makes for a tiresome neighborhood watch. Alternate formal meetings with casual block parties, potluck dinners, yard sales, or community clean-ups. Ask any local businesses that benefit from the neighborhood watch to donate food or door prizes.
Don’t get together too often. Some neighborhood watch advice suggests meeting only twice a year. But if your ‘hood is a big one, or you’ve got recurring problems, meet as often as it takes to keep everyone informed and get issues under control.