Neighborhood Watch Resources
Source: Office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer
Depending on the situation, there are different types of patrols to employ. Whatever strategy is used, it is key that communication is sustained with the police and a home base. The patrol coordinator and other volunteers can staff the home base by retaining radios.
Block Foot Patrols can cover both sides of a street, proceed around the block or tour several adjacent blocks. The patrol can be divided into sub-units; stationary groups of two volunteers can be deployed on the street corners while another unit, with two or more volunteers, walks slowly along the streets. Foot patrollers should have radios or cell phones to be able to communicate with one another and the police as well as effective flashlights. The volunteers may also want to wear identifying clothing. A log or report sheet should be maintained documenting any activity, which should be submitted to the police on a regular basis. A copy should be retained at the home base of the watch for reference.
Mobile Patrols as opposed to foot patrols can cover a larger area but tend not to provide as intense surveillance on any given block. These patrols can be conducted with the use of a car and/or bicycles. The car, designated with the name and insignia of the patrol, should travel a planned route. Two people should be in the car. Some patrols have a flashing light on the roof so that it can be identified at night. Check with your local police department for details.
While the operator drives the patrol car at a slow speed, the companion should observe for any criminal activity (e.g. drug dealing, graffiti, robberies, stripped stolen automobiles), suspicious activities and sounds ( e.g. screams for help, alarms activated, prying sounds, breaking glass, barking dogs). The automobile should be equipped with a radio or phone so that the volunteers can communicate with the police and home base. A log or report sheet should be kept to report any incidents to the police. By networking with local businesses, repair shops, banks, car rental agencies and/or car dealerships, the neighborhood watch may be able to secure a donation of money toward a car. Remember that insurance must be purchased which is costly and money must be saved for potential automobile repairs and gasoline. As mobile patrols mature, a watch group may decide to shift to a paid patrol. College students and retirees, who seek to earn extra money, may serve as good patrollers. However, don’t forget to check references, driving records and relevant tax/worker compensation requirements. The patrol coordinator will still have to maintain a schedule, keep tabs of the patrollers' hours and collect their reports.
For the bicycle patrol, both the volunteer rider and the bicycle should have proper equipment. The equipment should also bear the name and insignia of the group. Don’t forget to get the bicycles marked or etched and identified by your local police department to deter vandalism and theft. It is recommended that riders travel in groups and also work with the police. A planned route should be mapped and communications must be maintained with the home base and police department. Bicycles and equipment may be donated by various retailers and other entities. These donations present a good opportunity for publicity.
Building Patrols are usually based in multiple dwellings. Tenants may volunteer to sit behind a table in the lobby to greet visitors and keep a watch out for any trouble. Frequently, they ask visitors to sign a guest register which lists the person and apartment number to which they are going. Some lobby patrols in association with the landlord will institute a lease ID program. These projects limit access to a building to legitimate tenants with photo I.D. cards and their guests. As a consequence, drug dealers for example, who do not live in the building, find it very difficult to enter and dealers who operate from apartments reveal themselves through their large numbers of registered guests. Some tenant groups will also escort the visitor to their destination, which is a service that few drug customers will appreciate. A Lobby Watch is also an opportunity for tenants to get to know each other and to distribute information about tenant meetings and other events.
This type of patrol can be expanded to include a Vertical Building
Patrol. A group of patrollers work their way up the building, checking
hallways and stairwells on each floor.A tenant patrol, preferably
working in teams, should also search parking lots and garages, laundry
and recreational rooms, and playgrounds. They maintain communication with
the home base and police by using radios. The patrollers can also note
problems or issues with the physical condition of the building--burned-out
light bulbs, dark stairways and walkways, broken locks--and report them
to management. Working with fellow neighbors and management, a tenant
patrol ensures that the complex is well maintained. Several police departments
have programs to train residents of multiple dwellings in crime prevention
School Patrols, employing parents, grandparents, local business people and retirees, can guard areas in and around a school with walkie-talkies or radios to ensure that the children proceed to school safely and timely. The patrol can also be on duty guarding dismissal-school perimeters. These patrols prevent child-on-child violence and bullying as well as stranger danger. Working with the school administration and other education officials, school patrols have proven successful in various communities.
Window Watcher Project
A Window Watcher project is yet another way to increase community surveillance. Utilize the time and energy of seniors and ask them to keep a watch from their windows at various times. Ask them to report any suspicious activity or noise to the home base and the police. Seniors and the homebound are vital resources to be tapped not only for maintaining vigilance but also to help with mailings and other organizational tasks.
All patrollers need to know how to recognize suspicious activity and sounds, the techniques of obtaining an accurate description of a suspect and/or a vehicle and how to give an accurate description of the location. Further, they should be trained and instructed on how to request assistance from police if anyone is threatened or in danger. The volunteers must proceed with caution. Don’t confront a suspect or drug dealer alone. Neighborhood watch volunteers should not take any risks to prevent a crime or to facilitate an arrest. Confrontations can occur and escalate quickly.
It is important to note that patrol groups can and should work together. Organizations patrolling their own neighborhoods can share the same radio frequency and sometimes, can go on joint patrols or when necessary supplement each other’s patrols in adjacent communities. In such a collaborative relationship, watch groups or patrols help each other expand their capacities to fulfill their missions.
As a result of advancements in computer technology, crime mapping is becoming increasingly sophisticated, integrated and available. Nearly every police department is using some form of computer software to collect data about crime incidents and display that information on maps for analysis. This technology is being employed by law enforcement in an attempt to identify emerging criminal activity and trends with a focus toward crime prevention. Usually these maps depict neighborhood streets and use geometric shapes to indicate the location of recent criminal activity. One of the most comprehensive efforts in Internet crime mapping is underway in San Antonio, Texas, where the police department provides district maps that link to tables of crime data. The Ft. Wayne, Indiana Police Department does not provide maps on the Internet, but posts daily activity reports.
Some police departments routinely supply less sensitive crime mapping data to neighborhood watch groups and to the public via the WEB. Reluctance to make the data widely available is related to several factors including the fear of misuse and misinterpretation of the information and the need for confidentiality for some crimes, such as rape and juvenile offenses.
Neighborhood watch groups and patrols can benefit by gaining access to this data. Knowledge is empowering and knowledge about crime patterns can be used to prevent victimization. The neighborhood watch group should do the following:
- Find out about the information technology application at your local police department.
- Inquire as to what type of information is available to watch groups.
- If the crime data/mapping is available, ask whether the watch group can download the information.
Neighborhood watch groups should try to develop a relationship with the technology managers at the local police department so that the group can have input in the way in which the technologies are developed and implemented. However, proceed with caution. The watch group should be an advocate for the responsible dissemination of information. Confidentiality of a victim's identity and whereabouts should be assured.
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