Neighborhood Watch Volunteers


As a volunteer-based organization Neighborhood Watch leaders must understand the foundational concepts of volunteer management.  Unlike other organizations with paid employees where an employer/employee relationship helps to make the organization run effectively Neighborhood Watch leaders must understand how to recruit, motivate and lead their volunteers to ensure success of group efforts.

The basic steps involved in volunteer management are Volunteer Recruitment; Leadership and Team Building; and Volunteer Recognition. All of these steps are vital to the success of your volunteer program and are discussed on the following pages. Within the discussion of these steps, topics such as communication and conflict resolution are also highlighted. First, let’s look at volunteer recruitment.

1.      Volunteer Recruitment

There are two types of volunteer recruitment: focused recruitment and wide net recruitment.

Focused recruitment is the recruitment of members with specific skills. Focused recruitment is used when you have a position that is not suitable for just anyone, but calls for someone with specific skills, commitment, characteristics, or traits. You can conduct focused recruitment by sending a message to a few skilled individuals rather than broadcasting your message to the entire neighborhood.

When using the focused approach, you zero in on finding an individual with the needed skills. An example would be recruiting a person with computer expertise for a position requiring technology skills. When using this approach, you might use a flyer listing specific needs, or recruit through word-of-mouth.

Wide net recruitment is the recruitment of members for positions that can be filled by almost anyone because no special skills are required. Some common wide net recruitment approaches are:

As you begin recruiting members, you will need to use the type of recruitment most appropriate for the positions you need to fill.

Let’s take a look at some typical Neighborhood Watch positions: Area Watch Coordinator, Block Captain, and Member. Which type of recruitment would you use with each position, and why? Is it possible to use both types?

Responsibilities: Law Enforcement Liaison

The Law Enforcement Liaison is the link between law enforcement and citizens. The liaison provides the following services to citizens:

  • Offers training and information on topics of interest or concern to members
  • Provides guidance, support and motivation to Neighborhood
  • Watch groups
  • Provides technical assistance

 Responsibilities: Area Coordinator

The Area Coordinator is a citizen volunteer position. The Coordinator responsibilities include:

  • Serve as liaison between members, law enforcement, civic groups and block captain
  • Arrange neighborhood crime prevention training
  • Obtain and distribute crime prevention materials
  • Involve others in specific crime prevention projects

 Responsibilities: Block Captain

The Block Captain is also a citizen volunteer position. He or she:

  • Serves as spokesperson for the group
  • Organizes meetings
  • Maintains a list of participants
  • Arranges training programs
  • Designates work assignments
  • Distributes materials
  • Acts as liaison between group members and law enforcement

 Responsibilities: Watch Members

The last position we will look at is the watch member. Watch members are responsible for the following:

  • Attend meetings
  • Report suspicious or criminal activity
  • Help recruit new members
  • Practice safety measures at home and in community
  • Support captain and other leaders in their roles



Does your child know how to survive a school shooting?


Statistically schools might still be some of the safest places in the country and yet when the news flashes the scenes of yet another school shooting parents and grandparents cringe in horror. As we watch scenes of chaos, children running, heavily armed police entering the school and children wounded or dying we can’t help but wonder does my precious little one know how to survive a school shooting? Since the first spate of school shootings in the late 1990’s, (Jonesboro, Pearl, Paducah and Columbine), schools have had an opportunity to prepare their students how to respond to these violent attacks. But beyond practicing lockdown drills what have they really taught our children about surviving an active shooter incident such as Virginia Tech?

Unfortunately, the answer is very little.  Teachers receive a minimal amount of instruction, some as little as fifteen minutes, during annual in-service training and most of that revolves around how to lock their doors and wait for the police.   Even more disconcerting is that other than practicing their drills once or twice a semester most students receive no training at all.

Should they run, hide or fight and under what circumstances should they take any action at all?  A lockdown procedure is a valuable and proven tool to deter offenders but what if their door is breached such as in Newtown or they are left exposed in an open gym or cafeteria like at Columbine?

While conducting research of both the actions taken, and decisions made, by actual victims of these horrific events some obvious commonalities emerged.

Beginning with the basics of  how to safely exit, through the need to find cover or conceal oneself from the offender, and finally to the last resort effort of engagement, any student can learn in an age appropriate manner the following six-step ESCAPE Model.




CONCEAL Yourself


ASSESS all alternatives;


PRESENT a small target;




Although no training model can guarantee your child’s safety having the knowledge and practicing the skills needed can provide your precious loved one an increased chance of survival.

John Matthews is the executive director of the Community Safety Institute. He is the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival , School Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.


30 Seconds to Surviving a Mass Shooting


A common reaction by individuals involved in a mass shooting is to hesitate, to disregard the sounds of gunshots or explosions as “it must be something else, a shooting could never happen here.” Don’t be fooled … mass shootings have occurred in workplaces, schools, churches, parking lots and other public places. When your life could be at stake, you must act quickly and always assume the worst.  If you think you hear gunshots, immediately exit the area - don’t wait for someone to tell you to run.  What is the worst consequence of being wrong - a little embarrassment?  But if you’re right, you can stay alive. The single best action you can take during a mass shooting is to exit the area as fast as you can and go as far away from the scene as possible.  But don’t just run. Be smart.  If the shooting is inside, take an outside exit away from the sounds of gunfire.  Once outside, move as quickly as you can.  If you come under fire, run in a zig-zag pattern, in short bursts of 2 -3 seconds if possible, taking cover behind cars or trees as you keep moving away.  Cars, buildings, thick trees, even drainage ditches or concrete curbs can provide cover in an emergency.

If you are inside or in a location where you cannot safely exit the area, seek cover as soon as possible. Look for building support beams made of concrete or steel, commercial copiers, freezers, or concrete or brick walls -- anything that will provide cover by stopping a bullet.

If you are given the order to shelter-in-place, do so immediately. Do not leave your location until rescued by first responders, even if you believe the attack has stopped.  Mass shooters often commence their attack, then pause to reload or go outside to secure more weapons or ammunition, then return to continue their killing spree. Even in small buildings, clearing an area of an armed gunman can take law enforcement officers hours, so do not leave your safe location until rescued by police.

If exiting the area or finding protective cover are not options for you, then consider finding the nearest place to hide or, as referred to in Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival, seek concealment. Locate anywhere out of the shooter’s line of site.  In a movie theater this may mean simply dropping down in between rows of seats. In a warehouse, it could mean hiding behind a pallet of boxes.  Office personnel can seek refuge in closets, cabinets or behind partitions. The key to concealment is that it must be out of the shooter’s line of sight.  Individuals who have hidden under office desks or under cafeteria tables but in the path of the shooter have not fared well.

If you are in a crowd of people and being shot at and you have no way to exit, seek cover or find concealment. Even falling to the floor and playing dead has worked on numerous occasions.

The key to surviving a mass shooting is to quickly recognize the threat and safely exit the location.  If exiting is not possible, seek cover to protect yourself from bullets, or concealment out of the shooter’s line of sight. Remember -- always stay sheltered-in-place until rescued by first responders.


using cover for protection from bullets

Hiding when cover is not available

About the author: John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran and public safety consultant who has developed scores of federal law enforcement initiatives.  He is a recipient of a Texas Press Association award for column writing, the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a firsthand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.

School Evacuations and Reunion Sites


The following section is excerpted from School Safety 101 and describes the two most common types of school evacuation drills and the characteristics of a typical reunion site.  School evacuations and reunion sites should be detailed in the school crisis response plan and utilized in each campuses school safety drill program.  The Community Safety Institute recommends that schools practice an off-site evacuation drill once a year and on-site drills at least once per semester. EvacuationAn evacuation is necessary when imminent danger requires a move to a safer location.

  • On-site evacuation is when persons are removed from school to a safe location on the premises or nearby property.  The most common on-site evacuation is a fire drill where students are directed to leave the building and assemble at safe locations on or near the campus.  On-site evacuations involve moving students to within walking distance and most often remaining on campus.

Off-site evacuation occurs when persons are removed from the school to a remote safe location such as a primary evacuation site or directly to the reunion site.  An off-site evacuation usually requires transportation.

    • Primary Evacuation Site is a location used to secure individuals from potential harm.  The primary evacuation site may also be the reunion site if students are transported to the location; however, is at most schools a primary evacuation site is located within walking distance and utilized as a staging ground until students are transported to the designated Reunion Site.
    • Secondary Evacuation Site is an alternate location used to secure individuals and minimize harm.  This site can be on or off campus, and may be utilized until students are transported to the designated Reunion Site.
    • The Reunion Site is the secure physical location or place where students and their parents/guardians are reunited after an off-site evacuation has occurred.  This is the location to which students are transported, and the only place where students can be released to their parents/guardians after showing an official form of identification and completing a release form.

One important distinction between an evacuation site and a reunion site is that often evacuation sites are not publicized for fear of secondary attacks against school officials or students, but reunion sites are always made public. One reason for this difference is that school districts that coordinate with their local law enforcement agencies already have identified the reunion site, and as soon as an off-site evacuation is ordered, emergency responders will secure the reunion site and begin establishing perimeters to control all access to and from the site.

As part of their community or parent outreach programs, school districts typically work with their local media outlets to ensure that parents and guardians are aware of reunion sites and of the policies and procedures in the student checkout process.  Many districts send home information at the beginning of the school year, while others may use e-mails, phone trees or the district’s website to keep parents informed of the status of the incident and when and where to claim students. They may also provide important information such as the procedure to expect at the reunion site prior to releasing students to parents. Often school districts will require one or more forms of identification and that the parent or guardian who is claiming the child be listed on the student’s emergency contact sheet as having permission to take the child.

For school districts which have not yet designated a reunion site or are seeking another location, some characteristics to consider include:

Secure facility

  • Ample parking to accommodate buses, parents’ vehicles, and emergency vehicles
  • Ample space to house all students and staff
  • Area to properly out-process students
  • Appropriate communications capabilities

School Safety Book Cover


School Threat Assessments


Unfortunately, conducting school threat assessments of potential offenders is becoming more commonplace. In School Safety 101, the following information for threat assessment team members assists them in determining both the type of threat and the level of concern.  Both of these elements are necessary in order to make an informed decision regarding school and/or law enforcement response.

The Four Types of Threats

There are four types of threats: direct, indirect, veiled, and conditional.

A direct threat identifies a specific act against a specific target and is delivered in a straight-forward, clear, and explicit manner. An indirect threat tends to be vague, unclear, and ambiguous. While violence is implied, the threat may be phrased tentatively. A veiled threat is one that hints at a possible violent act, but leaves it to the potential victim to interpret the message. It does not explicitly threaten violence. Last, a conditional threat is one typically seen in extortion cases.  It warns that a violent act will happen unless certain demands or terms are (or are not) met.

Assessing Threats

      In the next section, our attention turns to the actual concerns and factors involved in the threat assessment process.

Threat Assessment Concerns

When conducting a threat assessment, the Threat Assessment Team considers both concerns and factors to determine how to classify the threat and most appropriately respond. Concerns include:

Credibility – what is the credibility of the reporting person?

Seriousness – how serious would the consequences be if the threat was carried out?

Resources – what resources would the perpetrator need to carry out the threat?

Intent – what is the intent of the threatener?

Motivation – what is the motivation of the threatener?

Threat Assessment Factors

Four types of  school threat assessments factors are:

Plausible Details - includes identity of victim; reason for threat; the means, weapons, and method by which it will be carried out; date, time, place, and information about plans or preparations already made (Ex: details that are specific such as “I built a bomb using stuff in my garage and it’s going to explode during lunchtime.”)

Specific Details - indicate substantial thought, planning, and preparatory steps taken, suggesting higher level of risk that threatener will follow through with threat. (Ex: Student tells teacher that he has been following her, and that tomorrow when she goes to the parking lot to eat lunch and read her book in the car he will shoot her with a gun he borrowed from his older brother).

Emotional content - watch for melodramatic words, unusual punctuation, or incoherent passages referring to God or an ultimatum. (Ex: “I hate you! You have destroyed my life! God will punish you!”)

Precipitating factors - incidents, circumstances, or reactions that can trigger threat.  (Ex:  Before leaving for school, student has a fight with his mother, which  sets off emotional chain that leads to threat).

Primary Threat Concerns

When evaluating a threat, the two primary concerns are:

How credible and serious is the threat itself?

To what extent does the person making the threat appear to have the resources, intent, and motivation to carry out the threat?

Plausible Details

  • The identity of the victim(s)
  • Reason for the threat
  • Means, weapon, and method
  • Date, time and place
  • Plans or preparations already made

Some possible plausible details that the Threat Assessment Team should be aware of may include dates, times, specific places, general locations, weapons, practice drills, training, specific preparations, etc.

Specific Details

  • Substantial thought
  • Planning
  • Preparatory steps

Specific details may include what steps have been taken to prepare, including the securing of weapons, practice with weapons, and recruitment of others.

Emotional Content

  • Melodramatic words
  • Unusual punctuation
  • Incoherent passages referring to God
  • Ultimatum

Threats with emotional content that should be considered by the Threat Assessment Team may be phrased like: “God will get you for this” or “You have ruined my entire life!  It’s over now and you will pay!”

Precipitating Factors

  • Incidents
  • Circumstances
  • Reactions
  • Situations

Examples of precipitating factors may include: failing grade or failed tests, parent job loss, divorce in family, etc.