Recently neighborhood watch programs became a hot topic of discussion when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin while he was on patrol in his community. The incident has sparked national outrage, and it has also made many people question the legitimacy of neighborhood watch programs. Does being a member of the neighborhood watch give a citizen an inflated sense of power? Can a neighborhood watch program actually do more harm than good in a community?
Photo Credit: Darkmoon Photography
The truth is that this incident in Florida was a rare, extremely atypical example of a neighborhood watch in action, and it shouldn’t cause communities to stop their programs or be wary of starting them. There are many benefits to having a neighborhood watch in your community, and here are just a few.
Crime Reduction and Prevention
One of the hopes for any neighborhood watch program is that it will reduce and prevent crime in the community – and it does. Neighborhood watch programs have been proven to be effective in lowering crime rates, especially in communities with high instances of crime. When a neighborhood watch program begins and has ample, active volunteers on constant patrol and observance, criminals often choose to do their crimes elsewhere. Even just the presence of signs stating that there is a neighborhood watch program in effect can deter criminals.
A Greater Sense of Community and Security
The key to a successful neighborhood watch program is widespread community involvement and active participation. Residents have to work together in order to make it work. As members train together, collaborate in meetings, and keep an eye on each other’s properties, a great sense of community will develop. People will get to know each other and feel more like a cohesive neighborhood versus just a collection of houses. The neighborhood watch also gives residents a very important sense of security and safety within their community, which will improve the quality of life for all.
Better Collaboration Between Residents and Police
A neighborhood watch program has to work in tandem with the efforts of law enforcement professionals. Especially in understaffed communities, the neighborhood watch is an important asset for police officers. When residents and police officers collaborate to keep an area safe, the area actually will be safer than if no relationship were to exist. Police officers need community members to be their eyes and ears, and a neighborhood watch program allows them to foster a more effective relationship.
Ability to Address Other Community Concerns
When members of a community band together to patrol and protect it, they become a close group of active and concerned citizens. As neighbors, the interest in the well being of the community is shared by all. This unity can also allow residents to address other community concerns, such as cleanliness or lack of community activities. Because they are already collaborating on the neighborhood watch, they’re in a much better position to address and solve other community issues. The neighborhood watch is an incredibly effective way of strengthening and improving all aspects of a community.
Robert Grant is a criminal justice professor and avid writer who often gives advice to people in need. He also loves to cover interesting legal situations that may arise around the globe.