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Crime is an unfortunate reality that can affect communities in any city or town. All across the United States, residents have banded together to set up neighborhood watches to keep an eye on things happening in their communities and to form partnerships with local law enforcement.

Bring Together Neighbors and Police
If you’re interested in starting a neighborhood watch, the first thing you need to do is to enlist the support of your neighbors. Talk to people and put up flyers to invite local residents to a meeting where you can discuss problems. You should also invite a member of your local police department who can listen to your concerns and suggest ways to address them.

Set Clear Goals and Priorities
It’s important to identify specific areas that you and your neighbors would like to address. That will determine the strategy you should use. For example, if you’re concerned about young people hanging out on the corner or in the streets, your approach will be different than it would be if you were concerned about a series of break-ins. The police liaison can advise you on the best ways to handle various situations and when you should call local law enforcement.

Hold Meetings
Host regular meetings to discuss issues affecting the neighborhood. When advertising meetings, let people know which specific topics you will be discussing so they can bring their concerns. Encourage your neighbors to take turns leading meetings so everyone can stay engaged and make a contribution.

Organize Patrols
If you want to set up groups to patrol the neighborhood and look for suspicious activity, ask for volunteers. Create a schedule so each person knows when he or she is supposed to be on patrol. Discuss things to look for and urge residents to call the police if they spot anything suspicious.

Create a map of your neighborhood. It should clearly identify houses, streets, schools, parks and other landmarks. This can help you plan your patrols so you can cover the entire neighborhood and prioritize specific areas that tend to experience more crime or vandalism than others.

Develop a Communication Plan
Create a communication system so you and your neighbors can quickly notify each other of problems. This can be a phone tree or a group email list. Having a communication plan in place can help you make sure everyone learns about crime or safety concerns as soon as possible.

Work Together
Safety and security are concerns for everyone. Communities are stronger when people work together for the common good. If you’re concerned about crime and safety in your city or town, organize your neighbors and work with local law enforcement to create your own neighborhood watch.