One of the biggest challenges to any Neighborhood Watch group is maintaining momentum after the problems are “solved.” When NW groups organize around safety concerns, enthusiasm is usually high and participation good. A few months later, the excitement dies down and communication often flags. In order to maintain a strong group, expand the focus of your Watch group. It is important to find other activities to keep your group engaged. The newly-revitalized Neighborhood Watch program embraces this idea by encouraging partnerships and viewing NW in an all-hazards approach. Here are some options to consider:
Increase Membership. Form a team to actively recruit new members or encourage previous members to attend. Lack of attendance can sometimes be due to a lack of information. If neighbors are informed about safety and security issues, they may be more willing to attend.
Information Sharing. Write your own Neighborhood Watch newsletter. An electronic newsletter will save copying and mailing costs and can often be linked to your local law enforcement agency's homepage. It can provide essential information and keep residents up-to-date on crime or other subjects of interest. However, never write in newsletters about neighbors leaving town until they are back from their trip.
Expand NW concerns beyond crime prevention to include quality-of-life issues and fun activities to build community spirit. Examples include:
Garage Sale. Pitch in together and plan a big neighborhood sale. You can use the money raised to purchase signs, radios. and vests for your Neighborhood Watch group.
Neighborhood Cleanup and Landscape Trimming. Rent a dumpster for a weekend. Neighbors can share tools and expertise to help one another. Cap the day with a barbecue or a night of desserts and visiting.
Winter Emergency Planning. Develop a game plan for emergencies. Who has a gas stove? Who owns and can operate a four-wheel drive vehicle? Does anyone have special needs? Identify your neighborhood resources.
Training Sessions. Start and participate in training sessions given by volunteers.
Creative Pot-Lucks or BBQs. Get together every 3-6 months to re-connect with other volunteers. Remember to keep it fun and light.
Local Interest Groups. Politicians and community service groups could share what is happening with your group.
Neighborhood Maps. A neighborhood map is a powerful tool contained on just a sheet of paper. Along with a phone tree, a map can give residents information on where everyone in the neighborhood lives, and also put landmarks and distance from house to house into perspective. The map will familiarize NW members with families living in the neighborhood, as well as address any potential dangers during an emergency.
Exercise or Walking Groups. It’s easier to pursue fitness with a companion. Arrange with some of your neighbors to run, walk. or bike regularly. While doing this you may notice subtle changes in your neighborhood, or unusual activity.
[cta headline="Neighborhood Watch 101" buttontext="Purchase!" buttonlink="http://communitysafetyinstitute.org/neighborhood-watch-book/" ] Neighborhood Watch 101 is a comprehensive guide for both law enforcement officers who are charged with overseeing local Neighborhood Watch initiatives and for citizens who are interested in volunteering or leading a local Neighborhood Watch group. [/cta]