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Neighborhood Watch: Frequently Asked Questions and Regulations

Q. What does neighborhood watch do?

A.
Neighborhood watch acts as the eyes and ears for neighborhoods. It includes citizen volunteers who actively patrol their areas for any illegal activities.
It is an effective way to keep unwanted activities in check, identify potential criminals, prevent crime, foster good relations between the police and the community, and reduce fear among the residents of a neighborhood.
Detailed information can be accessed on the Neighborhood watch manual.

Q. What are the laws pertaining to neighborhood watch?

A.
Neighborhood watch, formally National Neighborhood Watch, is a crime prevention concept created by the National Sheriff’s Association, in conjunction with multiple federal agencies. Active since 1972, the NNW program unites law enforcement agencies, private organizations, and individuals to reduce crime and build better communities.
There are no specific laws that govern the neighborhood watch program but there may be some community-specific requirements. Since these watch groups are created at the community level and involve a close liaison with the local police, their structure and functions may vary across communities.
Please contact your local law enforcement agency for more details.

Q. Does neighborhood watch have the authority to take action?

A.
Neighborhood watches are intended to be silent observers who identify and report any illegal activities and suspected behaviors but do not have the authority to take any action.
Watch volunteers may work closely with the local police but have no right to take an action or make an arrest. Their job is limited to observing and reporting activities and individuals that seem suspicious. Creating awareness is also a big part of this vigilance group carried on with the help of constant communication through meetings, one-on-ones, flyers, posters and neighborhood watch signs.

Q. Who can become part of a neighborhood watch?

A.
Given that these are essentially community groups, anyone can choose to become a part of the neighborhood watch program of their locality and work closely with their local law enforcement agencies.
These groups include individuals from diverse backgrounds, who do everything from patrolling, sharing crime prevention information, conducting surveys and assessments, supporting the homeless and needy, and so on.

Q. Can anyone organize a neighborhood watch program in their locality?

A.
Yes. Starting a neighborhood watch group is easy and can be done by anybody with just a little time and effort. There are essentially five steps to building a successful neighborhood watch, namely:
-Speaking to, recruiting, and organizing volunteer neighbors
-Contacting and setting up a meeting with a local law officer
-Discussing concerns and coming up with a plan of action
-Holding regular meetings and upskilling sessions as required
-Creating awareness about the group and ensuring it stays active and abuzz

Q. Is neighborhood watch the same as community watch?

A.
Yes, you may call it neighborhood watch or community watch. Neighborhood watches may have different names in different communities/neighborhoods but the idea of involving citizens to prevent crime remains the same across the board.
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