Traditionally, Neighborhood Watch groups form and grow in response to a community threat such as a crime wave in the neighborhood. During these times, citizens seem to come out of the bushes, both seeking help and volunteering to assist to restore safety and security. When criminals are at their worst neighbors seem to be at their best, but then when the wrongdoer is apprehended or the crime wave subsides, volunteers can also become scarce. This is usually because little is offered by local Neighborhood Watch groups to keep them engaged. One of the most fundamental aspects of engagement is communication. Neighborhood Watch leaders must constantly communicate to their volunteers and provide useful information in order to keep them informed and engaged. The following section offers some information on keeping Neighborhood Watch volunteers informed.
Neighborhood Watch Basics: Keeping in Touch
As with most volunteer groups, one of the challenges faced by the group is keeping in touch with volunteers with information they believe is beneficial to them, or helpful and important to the organization. If Neighborhood Watch leaders do not actively work to keep their volunteers both energized and mobilized, they will see their membership wane and the group will slowly die out. some suggestions on staying connected and communicating with your volunteers can be found in Neighborhood Watch 101 and include:
Today e-mail is one of the best ways to get in touch with your neighbors. Your group can organize an e-mail contact list much like that of a phone tree. When a neighborhood issue arises, you can contact residents quickly and efficiently by e-mail. However, keep in mind that there are people who do not have Internet access at home or by smart phone.
The local Neighborhood Watch group will have to decide who will maintain and update the email lists and what information should be included. For our Neighborhood Watch basics purposes, we recommend the following: meeting reminders, information on crime in the neighborhood, business related directly to the group, and information law enforcement has asked the group to share. Information that should not be shared includes: chain emails, personal information about a neighbor, news articles unrelated to the group. The NW phone tree should not be used for purposes of solicitation or personal communications.
[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]
The way we send and receive information is changing - newspaper subscriptions are falling and television news ratings are dropping because so many people receive their information from social media and electronic communications. Law enforcement agencies and their community partners should be on the forefront of providing timely and accurate information to increase public safety. Today social media is used to:
- Communicate - Interact with the public in an effort to stay in touch electronically
- Connect – In an effort to mobilize and empower citizens
- Promote - Positive accomplishments through stories, pictures and videos
- Inform - On breaking news events, traffic accidents and crimes
- Educate - On issues and instruct on topics from crime prevention to personal safety
- Request - Information on offenses by posting surveillance pictures or video
- Notify - Make real-time emergency notifications, i.e. weather emergencies, missing persons
Utilizing Facebook in Neighborhood Watch
- Get neighbors to “like” your Facebook page so they can regularly follow you.
- Actively market and promote your page to potential users.
- Post signs in your office, place Facebook logos on websites and in e-mails, and encourage users attending local activities or events to view your page and tell others.
- Provide valuable information and frequent updates to keep citizens coming back for more information.
- Post photos and video links to make your page come to life.
- Provide updates to breaking news events.
- Ask questions to generate interest and discussions.
- Upload videos of Neighborhood Watch-sponsored activities such as community cleanups.
Utilizing Twitter in Neighborhood Watch
Actively promote, and regularly tweet useful or beneficial information such as:
- Real-time traffic updates
- Breaking news stories about crime
- Real-time warnings about criminal activity in specific areas
- Links to neighborhood Facebook page or YouTube videos
Utilizing Blogs in Neighborhood Watch
- Tell the story of your law enforcement agency or citizen group
- Promote positive achievements
- Offer advice and information to make the community safer or more secure
Utilizing E-Mail in Neighborhood Watch
- Is sender- and receiver-specific
- Can contain messages, pictures or videos
- Can be used to stay connected and exchange information and materials
- Must be responsive to citizen reports; don’t give out an e-mail address and never check it.
Utilizing YouTube in NW
Videos are an extremely powerful form of media, and short videos can easily be made with today’s technology on a smartphone, tablet or similar device. Record some of your Neighborhood Watch activities or portions of them and upload to YouTube to share your success stories.