How to start a neighborhood watch program in your community
In 2016, reports of crime got Sandy Rabinowitch thinking about how his Turnagain neighborhood could fight back.
“We heard some neighbors had a car broken into that was in their driveway at night," he said. "Heard that there was a couple of guys kind of prowling the neighborhood late at night on bicycles.”
Rabinowitch said it was clear the would-be thieves were looking for easy targets, so he turned to Anchorage police officer Natasha Welch to learn more about forming a neighborhood watch group.
“I always say the first thing to do is to go talk to your neighbors,” Welch said. “Get everybody’s input, who’s in and who’s out?”
Welch said smaller is better when it comes to the size of the watch area. She recommends members be able to see their neighbors' homes from their own.
Smaller groups are also easier to organize. Welch said the one requirement to start a group is that 50% of the people in it must attend an organizational meeting.
“The meeting is about an hour long and I bring data on the area’s reported crime and we go from there,” Welch said. “It’s a pretty solid meeting. We talk about property crimes, theft, burglary, vandalism. But then, of course, people ask other questions while we are there.”
The meeting includes handouts on how neighbors can make their homes more secure, but it also offers an opportunity for people to connect names to faces and the houses where they live.
“We create a contact list of neighbors to have each other’s information. That’s a huge part of it,” Welch said. “You could live side by side by someone for five years and wave at them, but never know their name or their number or how to get a hold of them.”
Rabinowitch said the contact list, which he updates regularly, is one of the biggest benefits of organizing a neighborhood watch program.
“If somebody sees something that’s out beyond normal, you get a phone call," he said.
Rabinowitch said the effort to maintain a neighborhood watch is low compared to the payoff and Welch agrees. She recommends a meeting among neighbors once or twice a year as well as appointing someone who is willing to update the contact list.
The municipality offers specific steps on how to start a neighborhood watch program online. More information is also available by calling the Anchorage Police Department Neighborhood Crime Watch office directly at 907-786-8585.
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