Why should you be involved in Neighborhood Watch? Because studies show that seven out of ten Americans don't even know who their neighbors are. Because criminals find it easier to operate in neighborhoods where people don't know each other, where the residents pay little attention to what's going on around them, where a thief or burglar won't have to worry about someone calling the police to report their activities.
You should be involved because working with neighbors to look out for each other is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent crime in your neighborhood.
Neighborhood Watch asks you to be more aware of what's happening around you. Because you spend much more time in your neighborhood than a patrol officer ever could, you can play an important role in preventing crime just by keeping your eyes and ears open for anything suspicious, watching out for those things when the police can't be there.
What would you do if you saw a strange man climbing in your neighbor's window? Wheeling a bicycle out of their garage? Stealing valuables out of a parked car? By staying alert and promptly reporting these sorts of activities, you could help prevent such crimes and make your neighborhood a safer place to live.
Neighborhood Watch is about sharing information. For instance, the police ask that you share information with them by calling when you see criminal or suspicious activities in you neighborhood. It's also a good idea for neighbors to keep each other informed about vacations or business trips so you can watch out for each other's homes while you're away.
In return, police share information with you about what types of criminal activity are being reported in your area. We'll tell you how to use 911 and how to report information so the police can respond more effectively. We'll also tell you about some proven crime prevention techniques that can help protect your property from theft, burglary and other crimes.
When you join Neighborhood Watch, you won't be asked to pay dues, purchase materials or attend lots of meetings. Two meetings, each about an hour long, is all it takes to get a block watch group started. These are informal get-togethers, usually held right in the neighborhood where you live. After that, it's simply a matter of watching out for your neighborhood and calling the police whenever you see something suspicious. The more people who agree to participate, the more effective your group is likely to be.
Neighborhood Watch is not a vigilante program. It doesn't give people the authority to act like police officers, take risks or try to be heroes. And it's not an excuse to poke noses in other people's business. It is an obligation to look out for each other as neighbors and to inform the police whenever something is going on that seems to require the help or intervention of a police officer.
Janesville now has more than 100 Neighborhood Watch groups scattered all over the city, all identified by the distinctive Neighborhood Watch street signs that mark the boundaries of each group. Some of these groups are in quiet neighborhoods where nothing much ever happens. Neighborhood Watch is one way to keep it that way.
Other Neighborhood Watch groups were formed because of chronic problems with criminal or anti-social behavior. Residents sometimes are faced with the choice of doing nothing and letting things get worse, or working together to try to make things better. In such cases, people can use the Neighborhood Watch program as an organizing tool to make their neighborhood a better place to live.
So Neighborhood Watch isn't really a "police program" at all. It's a neighborhood program that asks ordinary people to do simple things to improve the security of their neighborhood. It doesn't come with any big promises or guarantees, but it does provide a way to prevent crime if neighbors will simply agree to help each other.
If this sounds like something you'd like to start in your neighborhood, you should call the police department at 755-3077 for more information about how to become a part of Neighborhood Watch.