Will a neighborhood watch lower the crime rate in your neighborhood? Social scientists studying the effectiveness of the programs aren’t sure, but they think it’s likely it will.
Some studies report a reduction in crime after a watch starts, while others found an increase, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The DOJ report looked at 18 studies from the United States and the United Kingdom. The studies paired neighborhood watch areas with similar neighborhoods that had no neighborhood watch. In 15 of the 18 areas, crime fell in the area with the watch. In three areas, crime increased despite the neighborhood watch.
None of the studies was perfect. Some of the watch programs did other projects that might also have helped lower crime rates, like engraving owner information on valuables or working with neighbors to improve the security of their homes.
If your program does reduce crime, you’ll win in two ways:
1. Your insurance rates could go down. Property insurance is all about risk. The higher the risk, the more you pay for insurance. Crime isn’t the only factor affecting your rates, but it plays a role. The more claims insurance companies have to pay crime victims in your neighborhood, the more they charge you for insurance premiums.
If a neighborhood watch group helps lower crime and that leads to fewer insurance claims, insurers will eventually adjust premiums, says Mike Barry, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute.
2. Your property values could rise. Who doesn’t want to live in a safe neighborhood? Like insurance rates, home values are affected by more than just crime. But having a neighborhood watch certainly won’t hurt your values.
A strong-knit community means people care, and that improves a neighborhood’s atmosphere, which can increase property values, says Robbi Woodson, neighborhood watch program manager for the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Look at it this way: Thousands of communities nationwide wouldn’t have started neighborhood watches if the program caused values to drop, she says.