Organizing a Community Watch
Organizing a Community Watch
A great way to start the process in organizing a Community Watch effort in your neighborhood is to contact Jacksonville Police Services at 910 455-4000. They will help provide materials and technical advice.
Next Steps, Engaging Your Neighbors
You have some materials and technical advice in place. Your next step is to schedule a community meeting in a home, church, community building, volunteer fire department, or other location that will accommodate participants. Invite a law enforcement officer to speak at your meeting about "Starting a Community Watch Program and Crime Prevention Techniques at Home." Jacksonville police are happy to help, but please give them a call to coordinate schedules.
You have a date for your meeting. Next, send out invitations to each of your neighbors to come to the meeting. A good tip; two to three weeks before your meeting, deliver the letters door-to-door when most people are home.
Draw a large map of all the street and houses in your community. An Internet site like Google maps may work. One week before the meeting, remind your neighbors about the meeting and ask if there is anything you can do to help them attend. Remember, there is no substitute for hand-delivering the letters and your reminder. When your neighbors see how hard you are working, they will be more likely to attend the meeting.
- Arrive in plenty of time. As people come, thank them and usher them in. Introduce people, and encourage neighbors to sit together and to become acquainted. When everyone has arrived, go to the front of the room and introduce yourself and the law enforcement official. Then, have the neighbor sitting closest to you stand up, introduce he or she, their family and their address. Have the next person in line give the same information, and so on.
- After everyone has been introduced, ask the law enforcement official to give the presentation. Pass out paper and pencils so your neighbors can take notes. Make sure that everyone understands the program completely. The Community Watch program can be effective only when everyone knows what he or she must do.
- Get a complete list of names, address and phone numbers from everyone taking part in the program. Also get a list of special concerns for the handicapped, elderly and children home alone. Select the type of signs and window stickers necessary for high visibility in the community. Establish a cost for each household and collect or plan to collect the funds. Your local police or sheriff's department can assist you in ordering the materials.
- Schedule the crime prevention officer to return to the community to make voluntary security inspections of all the homes participating in the program. Decide the best days and times so the officer can be the most effective. Residents should complete a "Burglary Prevention Checklist for Home."
- Elect a permanent Community Watch Chairperson. This person is responsible for communicating with local law enforcement officials and the volunteer leaders of each block in your community called "Block Captains." Your chairperson will head your entire program, so choose wisely. How effective your Community Watch is depends greatly upon the person you elect as your leader. Your chairperson should be an outgoing type because he or she will be talking to many strangers, neighbors and vice versa.
- Recruit volunteers to serve as block captains. These people serve as leaders for their blocks in the neighborhood, and they pass information from their permanent chairman to their people. To get a volunteer for each block in the neighborhood, go to your community map hanging in the front of the room. Point to each block and ask for a person living on that block to serve as block captain.
- Schedule a second meeting for the entire community for the following month. Initially, monthly meetings should be used to promote maximum participation and keep everyone informed about crime prevention subjects. You may wish to meet less often, depending on your program. Thank everyone for coming and tell them they will hear from the block captain soon. Ask the chairperson and block captains to stay a little longer.
- Have each captain write down their name, address, and telephone number on a piece of paper. These sheets, plus your map, go to the permanent chairperson. Your leaders should then set up a time to meet so that they can put Community Watch into action. You have done a good job and can take pride in the fact that you have initiated a program in your community which will change everyone's lives for the better!