September 23, 2017

Challenges You are Likely to Encounter When Running a Neighborhood Watch

Running a neighborhood watch is not an easy thing. There are certain challenges that you are almost certainly bound to encounter, when running a neighborhood watch.

The first major challenge that you are likely to encounter, when running a neighborhood watch, is that of getting volunteers. The activities of a neighborhood watch more often than not require volunteers: you know, the people to do the patrols within the neighborhood and so on. But as you are bound to discover, the people have better uses for their time. So you are likely to end up having a difficult time getting people to volunteer their time, unless the neighborhood happens to have experienced a spate of insecurity incidents in the recent past.

The second major challenge that you are likely to encounter, when running a neighborhood watch, is that of getting cooperation from the neighbors. Most of the neighbors won’t be able to appreciate the need for a neighborhood watch. Asking them to ‘say something, when they see something’ is likely to be a difficult call: yet the success of a neighborhood watch depends on the extent to which the neighbors are ‘watchful’. It is likely to be even more complicated when you ask for financial contributions from the neighbors to run the neighborhood watch activities. As you are bound to discover, a neighbor who has just gotten to a see a rather meager Walmartone paystub online is likely to have a lot of resistance to any requests for funds to finance a neighborhood watch — and you really can’t blame her.

The third major challenge you are likely to encounter, when running a neighborhood watch, is that of getting cooperation from the local police authorities. The local police authorities may believe that the area is their ‘turf’, as far as maintenance of law and order is concerned. So they may view neighborhood watches as unwelcome competition. In the worst case scenarios, the local police authorities may actually put obstacles on the neighborhood watch activities, and try to sabotage the neighborhood watch initiative.

Establishing a Neighborhood Watch Coordination Office

Having set up a neighborhood watch group, it may be necessary to establish an office from where the the activities of the organization would be coordinated. The office would also serve as the neighborhood watch’s base, some sort of command center if you like. Having an office from where the neighborhood watch is run is better than having a scenario where the activities of the neighborhood watch are coordinated from an individual’s home.

After making the decision to establish a neighborhood watch coordination office, the first challenge will be that of procuring the actual office space. Ideally, the office space that is procured should be within the neighborhood in question. It should be an office that can be reached from all corners of the neighborhood: a centrally-located office. Some members of the neighborhood may be more than willing to donate office space for the purpose, once they are persuaded that a neighborhood watch is a good thing and that they ought to support it.

Once the neighborhood watch office space has been procured, the next challenge is that of equipping the office. Most neighborhood watch offices tend to be equipped in a very basic and Spartan manner. For some reason, their appearance reminds me of credit cards online login pages, which tend to be rather bare, with spaces only being provided for entry of usernames and passwords. In a similar manner, neighborhood watch coordination offices tend to have only a couple or so seats, a couple or so files and perhaps an old desktop computer with a CRT monitor…

The next challenge, after procuring office space for the neighborhood watch coordination office and equipping it is that of staffing the office. In some cases, it may be possible to find volunteers within the neighborhood to staff the neighborhood watch coordination office. But we also have some big and well organized neighborhood watch groups that are able to employ professionals to run their coordination offices.

Is a Neighborhood Watch a Good Thing?

In our last blog post, we looked at some of the strategies that can be used to get neighbors to consent to the idea of a neighborhood watch being set up in their neighborhood. The inference we can make there is that there are neighbors who may object to the idea of a neighborhood watch being set up in their neighborhood. And that leads to a further inference that not all people view a neighborhood watch as a good thing. In fact, whether a neighborhood watch is a good thing is debatable.

The truth of the matter is that a neighborhood watch has potential to be a good thing. A neighborhood watch also has potential to be a bad thing. It depends on how it is run.

A neighborhood watch is a good thing to the extent that it can carry out its work without being too obtrusive. A neighborhood watch is a good thing to the extent that it can it can carry out its work without harassing the residents of a neighborhood, or the people who visit the neighborhood. A neighborhood watch is a good thing to the extent that it can carry out its work within the law, and without turning into a vigilante and without interfering with people’s right to privacy.

Conversely, a neighborhood watch turns into a bad thing when it starts operating as a vigilante force. Sometimes you visit a neighborhood, and you notice that the neighborhood feels like a jail: thanks to an oppressive neighborhood watch program. This is the sort of neighborhood where you have to keep on answering questions as to who you are, what your business there is… and so on: thanks to bad neighborhood watch policies. There are neighborhoods where you can’t invite visitors to your house: out of fear that the visitors may end up being harassed by the neighborhood watch. At that point, a neighborhood watch becomes undesirable.

Getting the Neighbors to Accept the Idea of a Neighborhood Watch Group Being Set Up

One of the challenges you are likely to encounter while trying to set up a neighborhood watch is the one where you may find some neighbors being resistant to the idea. The question that comes up, then, is as to how you can get the neighbors to accept the idea of a neighborhood watch being set up. This is important because if the neighborhood watch is to work optimally, all the people who live within the neighborhood have to (genuinely) buy into the idea. Indeed, one of the most important liaisons for a neighborhood watch group is with the members of the neighborhood itself. So, how do you get the neighbors to accept the idea of a neighborhood watch being set up in their localities?

The main key to success in getting the neighbors to accept the idea of a neighborhood watch group being set up lies in one word: reassurance. This is a question of reassuring the neighbors that the neighborhood watch group won’t turn into a mechanism for harassing them or harassing their visitors. This is likely to be the main concern underlying their resistance. It is just the same way that you find some Gap credit card holders being hesitant to enroll their cards for online access. But upon being reassured that the Gap credit card login mechanism is fool-proof and more or less 100% secure, the resistance evaporates. It is the same with the folks who happen to be resistant to the idea of a neighborhood watch group being set up: the key to success is in addressing their (real) underlying fears.

In order to get the neighbors to accept the idea of a neighborhood watch group being set up within their locality, it may also be necessary to appeal to their self-interests. It may be a good idea to alert them to the ways in which the group may come to be of help to them one day, in some way. It may also be necessary to alert them to any negative happenings in the recent past: bad things that happened in the neighborhood — things that could have been avoided had there been a neighborhood watch group in place.

Essential Liaisons for a Neighborhood Watch Group

For a neighborhood watch group to be successful, it needs to liaise with several other entities. A neighborhood watch group can’t work in isolation. It needs help from certain other groups of people, for its work to be successful. As a matter of fact, the task of liaising with these other entities is just as important as that of electing a leader for the neighborhood watch group. As soon as a neighborhood watch group is set up, its first order of business should be that of figuring out what entities it will need to liaise with locally, and who the contact persons in those entities will be.

For a neighborhood watch group to be successful, it (obviously) needs to liaise closely with the local police. This way, when something that is truly suspicious is noted, it is immediately reported to the police — ideally through special hotlines. Once liaison with the police is established beforehand, the police are likely to respond to distress calls from the neighborhood watch groups with greater priority. With proper liaison, the police will tend to view the members of the neighborhood watch group as their special partners.

For a neighborhood watch group to be successful, it needs to liaise closely with other neighborhood watch groups in the district. This way, the members of the respective neighborhood watch groups can alert each other when they come across suspicious stuff.

Further, for a neighborhood watch group to be successful, it needs to liaise closely with the private guards who happen to be deployed in the neighborhood. Many individuals and businesses nowadays prefer to delegate the security maintenance function to these guards. The guards are often paid competitive salaries: which they nowadays receive electronically, through the likes of the Securitasepaytalx payroll system. But often, the guards don’t mind earning a little extra money on the side – and one of the avenues through which they can do so is by liaising with neighborhood watch groups and other such entities. Working with the security guards in this way is advantageous, as they tend to have better training, better coordination equipment and better contacts within the local police services.

Electing a Neighborhood Watch Leader

In the process of setting up a neighborhood watch, a point is likely to come where you have to elect a leader for the group. This is, of course, assuming that you have opted to take the route of electing the neighborhood watch leaders – as opposed to simply appointing the leaders.The good thing with leaders of neighborhood watches who are elected (as opposed to those who are simply appointed) is in the fact that the elected leaders tend to enjoy more legitimacy. Furthermore, if you opt to be simply appointing the leaders for the neighborhood watch, a question is likely to arise as to who exactly is to do the appointing: given the fact that all members of a neighborhood watch as supposed to be equal. This state of affairs is what makes it necessary to take the alternative route: that of electing the neighborhood watch leader.

Electing a leader for a neighborhood watch group can turn out to be a complex undertaking. It may actually be more complicated than trying to set up a company on the SunbizFlorida website, which can be accessed (by folks trying to register companies in Florida) at Sunbiz.org. One of the complexities you have to deal with is that of figuring out who is to take part in the election of the neighborhood watch leader. Is it all members of the neighborhood? Or is the right to elect the leader of the neighborhood watch to be confined to the heads of the households that constitute the neighborhood? Or, at yet another level, is the right to participate in this election to be restricted to the people who contribute to the neighborhood watch? If a given person doesn’t contribute to the purchase of the neighborhood watch equipment, what right does he or she have to participate in the election?

In the final analysis, what is important is to ensure that the person elected to be the leader of the neighborhood watch is one who is competent for the role. He also needs to be a person who won’t abuse the power that is likely to be bestowed upon him.

Equipment That the Core Members of a Neighborhood Watch Program Need to Have

Ideally, all members of a given neighborhood should be members of the local neighborhood watch program. But the reality is such that in most neighborhoods, only a few members show willingness to undertake this duty with zeal. Those are the ones who end up being the core members of the neighborhood watch program. And the nature of their work is such that they need to have certain pieces of equipment, if at all they are to be in a position to perform their role well.

Firstly, the core members of a neighborhood watch often need to have torches, especially if they have to undertake the role of patrolling the neighborhood at night. What is even more critical in this regard is for members of the neighborhood watch program to be trained on the proper use of these torches. The objective is get them to avoid ‘interrogating’ everyone they shine their torch-lights on. They need to be trained to only stop a person if they really have a genuinely good reason to believe that the person is up to no good. This is in line with the broader objective of protecting the neighborhood watch from mutating into a vigilante group.

Secondly, the core members of a neighborhood watch often need to have whistles, or other types of similar equipment through which they can raise the alarm instantly if they encounter anything bad. If these can’t be bought locally, then the members of the neighborhood watch can opt to import them. Most important is to ensure that the members of the neighborhood watch program are trained on the proper way to use the whistles, and the exceptional circumstances under which they can use the whistles. If they are trained properly, they will soon understand what is expected of them. Never underestimate human capacity to learn: if, for instance, all the employees of a company like UPS are nowadays able to learn how to use the UPS employee login functionality at the UPSers website, it is clear that people are capable of learning anything.

Thirdly, the core members of a neighborhood watch program often need to have protective clothing. This is particularly necessary if they have to undertake the role of patrolling the neighborhood at night, when it is too cold.

In some cases, the members of the neighborhood watch may also need to have special communication equipment like, for instance, radio communication equipment. There are also cases where the neighborhoods are very large, and where the members of the neighborhood watch programs therefore need to have special vehicles for their patrols. In these cases still, the members of the neighborhood watch program have to be trained on how to be unobtrusive in their work, lest they turn into a nuisance.

Steps You Need to Follow When Setting Up a Neighborhood Watch

There are several important steps that you need to follow, when setting up a neighborhood watch.

Firstly, you need to organize a meeting, or indeed a series of meetings with your neighbors, in order to get them to buy into the idea of setting up a neighborhood watch. This is very sensitive, and you need to ensure that each and every neighbor is brought in. You can therefore use the phone or email to contact all the neighbors. This is like where you can go to a site like www.sbcglobal.net (this is assuming that you are one of those folks who still use the SBCglobal email program), and send emails to all your neighbors, containing the proposal to set up a neighborhood watch. A better approach still would be one where you organize face to face meetings. In the meetings, you can tackle the issues necessitating the setting up of the neighborhood watch — and finally get the proposal to come up with the neighborhood watch to emerge organically.

Secondly, you need to meet with the local law enforcement folks, in order to set up mechanisms for future liaisons in community policing. This is very important, and it is not something you should take lightly. You should take the pieces of advice given by the local law enforcement officers seriously. And you need to be aware of the fact that some of the pieces of advice you will be get from the local law enforcement officers may come across as being totally counter-intuitive.

Thirdly, you need to come up with a comprehensive operational manual for the neighborhood watch. In other words, you need to come up with the rules and regulations that will be governing the neighborhood watch’s operations. You need to be thorough here: in order to avoid pitfalls like those of the neighborhood watch turning into a vigilante group, or those of the neighborhood watch turning into a system for harassment of innocent passersby.

How to Ensure That a Neighborhood Watch Group Doesn’t Mutate Into a Vigilante Group

There is always the risk of a neighborhood watch group that was initially set up with good motives turning into a malevolent vigilante group. Therefore, when setting up a neighborhood watch group, you need to take certain steps, to ensure that it doesn’t mutate into a vigilante group.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the most effective way to ensure that a neighborhood watch group doesn’t turn into a vigilante group is through effective training. The members of the neighborhood watch group need to be trained about the various thresholds. Those include the threshold at which they should start watching a particular person’s movements very keenly, the threshold at which they should stop a person, the threshold at which they should call the police… and so on. Most importantly, the members of the neighborhood watch group need to be trained against taking the law into their own hands, and against harassing people unnecessarily.

I have also come to the conclusion that the other highly effective way to ensure that a neighborhood watch group doesn’t mutate into a vigilante group is through careful selection of members. People who have negative attitudes (for instance, people who have power and control problems) should generally not be included in patrol duties. Neither should people who are known to have violent dispositions, or people who are prone to start harassing folks passing by unnecessarily. All neighbors can, of course, be participants in the neighborhood watch program. But not everyone should actually be allowed to go on patrol duties.