Old Fashioned Neighborhood Watch: Good or Bad




Are You Watching Your Neighbors? 

Aside from a home security alarm system, the next best weapon in our arsenal against crime is the decidedly low-tech deterrent of the neighborhood watch.  The whole concept of strong communities watching out for each other began with our founding fathers and ye olde town watchman.

In colonial America, each citizen took an active interest in protecting their neighbors. To be sure there wasn’t a big problem with drug related crime and techno criminals didn’t exist as such. Still, many of the security challenges faced by those early settlers were every bit as threatening as ours are now.


The Bad

Two high profile incidents last year, both involving neighborhood watch programs, drew national media attention and highlighted the inherent ills in the system. Currently, most local police departments set recommendations for local neighborhood watches; they are not meant to be vigilante organizations intending to replace law enforcement. In all cases of suspected criminal activity, members are supposed to contact police, not take the law into their own hands.


The Good

Today’s fragmented society, desperately maintaining personal privacy at all costs, leaves individuals vulnerable on many levels. One of the most susceptible weak spots is our home. And the very best thing you can do to ensure home safety is the monitored alarm system. But by engaging with your community, an informal neighborhood watch is an automatic by-product; friends tend to lookout for friends.

Certainly, 21st century living has changed our lives for the better but the cost to communities and families has been the loss of personal connections, leaving us increasingly isolated. Would your parents or grand-parents recognize your neighborhood? Our neighborhoods aren’t what they used to be.


The Better

What once involved connecting face-to-face now takes place on Facebook or Twitter. We have grown familiar to a life without significant friendships. But those complete strangers, living next door can be your best home security. A tightly knit community is full of helpful, kindly, familiar faces.

Build relationships in your neighborhood. If you’re not happy with the collective vibe in your community, start small – perhaps reaching out to other parents at your kids’ school. We get a lot of input from the media – who can you really trust – subsequently people are afraid of their neighbors. The best way to deal with this culture of suspicion is to get to know people in your immediate vicinity.


Get to Know the Neighbors

Try smiling and saying hello to someone you sometimes see.  It could be your next-door neighbor or the pensioner down the road with the lovely garden. Just make contact…rinse…repeat.

When a new family moves into your street, go and welcome them to the neighborhood. If you have the time offer help or information. No time? How about a plate of cookies? Old-fashioned?  Sure but it’s worked in the past. Conversely, if you’re the newcomer, make the effort to go round to the neighbors and introduce yourself.

New resident or old timer, you can still find ways to connect with others in your community. What about a book club, exercise class, residents association or volunteering for starters. Be an encourager of neighborhood initiatives like a block party or BBQ and offer to assist – if you can. Don’t make yourself an island.


The Benefits

People feel safer and less isolated when there is a connection to the people who live nearby. Even small, simple exchanges have a big impact on how safe and satisfied we feel about our neighborhoods.

Every neighborhood has its own identity or “feel” and residents can usually suss out who or what is out of place. And consider organizing a neighborhood watch program, before crime threatens everyone’s peace-of-mind. Your local law enforcement agency will help plan and organize a neighborhood watch system, keeping you and your family safe and the neighborhood, as well.

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