Neighborhood Watch (NW) is a proven, recognizable, and structured way for communities to make and keep themselves safe. It can build community spirit, camaraderie with neighbors, stronger relationships with law enforcement and area businesses, and safer homes and streets. NW has been around for decades, but since 9/11, communities with active NW programs have been encouraged to assist and provide support to homeland security efforts. Communities have been encouraged to develop an evacuation plan, create a neighborhood directory with phone numbers and email addresses, help neighbors develop emergency preparedness plans, discuss local warning systems and the location of temporary shelters in case of emergencies, and discuss potential terrorist targets in or near the community.
If your NW group is thriving and looking to take its activities to the next level, consider this new approach for your NW group. First responders make up only 1 percent of the U.S. population. When disasters strikes, such as tornadoes (Tuscaloosa and Joplin, spring 2011), hurricanes (Katrina, 2005 and Irene, 2011), flooding (Mississippi River, 2011) and snow (Alaska, 2012), the first responders and agencies such as FEMA and the Red Cross can be overwhelmed. Your NW group could assist in recovery efforts by partnering with Citizen Corps and be trained in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) curriculum, which includes fire safety, first aid/triage, emergency preparedness, disaster psychology, organization, and terrorism. Citizen Corps was created to support the Department of Homeland Security to mobilize the country against threats to national security and assist in the recovery after a disaster or terrorist attack.
Your NW group can be a vital player in assisting Americans during their time of need. Your group can undertake activities such as creating partnerships with the local business owners to create a directory similar to one developed for your NW community and planning activities year-round to correspond with Crime Prevention Month events in October. NW can organize around may topics, not just crime. Your group could consider seasonal needs, including weather events or tourist season; year-round celebrations, including Celebrate Safe Communities, www.celebratesafecommunities.org, events; terrorism prevention; and medical emergencies (don’t forget to check on the elderly in your community.) To learn more about Citizen Corps visit www.citizencorps.gov. To find assessments and information to enhance your NW , visit NCPC’s home and neighborhood safety pages under the “Resources” tab.
To find out more about taking your NW group to a new level and partnering with Citizen Corps program, download this podcast interview with Tami Wyrick, executive director of the Virginia Crime Prevention Association.