What is a Neighbourhood Watch?

Neighbourhood Watch is a program that helps people reduce crime in their area by watching out for their neighbours and their neighbours’ property.

How does it work?

The idea behind Neighbourhood Watch is simple: by getting to know the people living around you, you’ll be better able to recognize a person or activity that is suspicious.

Neighbourhood Watch programs in Ottawa are coordinated by local Community Police Centres.

Benefits of Neighbourhood Watch

When you get involved in a Neighbourhood Watch program, you can learn how to:

  • Make your home a less inviting target for thieves
  • Mark your valuables so that they can be recovered in case of theft
  • Be alert to suspicious activity in your neighbourhood
  • Respond appropriately to potential threats

A Neighbourhood Watch program is not about being a busybody or vigilante, and it doesn’t involve time-consuming duties.

How to get involved in Neighbourhood Watch

See if your neighbours share your goals and concerns. If they agree, build a team that can promote the Watch to your entire neighbourhood and get a sense of people’s interest. Don’t worry if some people aren’t interested. Full participation is rare.

Generally, volunteers making phone calls or ringing doorbells should be responsible for no more than 10 households – but every Neighborhood Watch is different.

Your Neighbourhood Watch program should usually have natural community boundaries, such as a street, city block or apartment building, with manageable limits.

Here are some tips:

  • Invite a police officer to attend the meeting to give a presentation on the Neighbourhood Watch program
  • Promote the meeting through posters, word-of-mouth or emails to your neighbours to encourage a good turnout
  • Invite your City Councillor to participate in the meeting to support your program

At your first meeting:

  • Identify the most urgent crime and safety issues in your neighbourhood
  • Develop a plan to address them
  • Get everyone’s agreement and buy-in on the plan

Once your Neighbourhood Watch is set up, start attending regular meetings with other local Watch coordinators and community police officers. There, you’ll benefit from presentations by crime prevention experts, and you can ask questions and get ideas from more experienced coordinators.

Your local Community Police Centre will supply brochures, window stickers and free access to photocopiers for your announcements. You can consult with Neighbourhood Officers who are familiar with local crime issues and incidents.

Most Neighbourhood Watches are created to solve a specific crime problem. Sometimes, after the criminal activity has been dealt with, interest can drop. As time passes and Watch members begin to neglect their duties or move elsewhere, the problem may return. So it’s important to keep the momentum going.

You may want to put out a newsletter or regular email to remind members about crime prevention best practices. It’s smart to keep an eye on crime statistics in your area and share these with neighbours.

For more information