Starting A Crime Watch

Crime Watch is basically a group of neighbors looking out for each other. It is getting to know each other and becoming familiar with your neighbors’ habits, families, vehicles, and regular visitors so you will know when something is suspicious or out of the ordinary. It is a formalized way of being nosey neighbors. It is understanding that “Nosy Neighbors Make Safe Neighborhoods”.

Neighborhood Watch is homeland security at the most local level. It is an opportunity to volunteer and work towards increasing the safety and security of our homes and our homeland. A crime watch program is an organization of concerned citizens working together as good neighbors to reduce the crime in their neighborhood.  Crime watch programs take many forms.  Organization by blocks is the cornerstone of all citizen crime prevention programs.  Natural neighborhood boundaries such as major streets, creeks or parks may further define the crime watch area.  The following guidelines will help establish a successful crime watch.

The 5 Steps

  1. Contact the Dallas Police Department and schedule a meeting with the Division Crime Watch Officer.
  2. Obtain a copy of the CWEB Resource Package.
  3. Recruit and organize as many neighbors as possible.
  4. Discuss community concerns and develop an action plan.
  5. Hold regular meetings and train on relevant skills.
  6. Implement a quick response communication system and take action steps.

 Each of these steps will be discussed in various section of the Resource Manual.

 Procedures

Contact the Crime Watch Officer (NPO) at your substation.  Crime watch efforts should be coordinated through this officer to avoid duplication of efforts.  Explain that you would like to start a crime watch (neighborhood, apartment or business) and ask for any assistance that the DPD might offer.

Discuss the size and boundaries of the area considered for the program.  The NPO will know where the boundaries of the other groups end and may have suggestions for a manageable area if your neighborhood boundaries are not readily defined.  Although the police department generally recommends that each crime watch group cover a complete reporting area, in practice reporting area boundaries often are not the same as natural neighborhood boundaries.  Apartment or business crime watch boundaries are usually more easily determined.

Talk with neighbors and friends in your area.  Ask for their participation in a small core group to take the first steps.  Explain the need for, and the value of, a crime watch.  Decide on the exact boundaries of the area to be organized.

Some of the substations have crime watch support groups in which experienced crime watch chairpersons have volunteered to answer questions and act as mentors to new crime watch groups.  Ask your crime watch NPO Officer if he/she can put you in touch with another chairperson who may be willing to advise you.

Become familiar with the duties of the crime watchperson, section coordinators, block captains and participants so that you will be able to answer questions.  Always be on the alert to recruit interested volunteers.

The NPO Officer will be able to provide actual crime information for your area.  Become familiar with the crime statistics.  Armed with this knowledge, convincing neighbors of the need for a crime watch will be easier.  Often neighbors are not aware of the extent of crime in their area.

Plan the first neighborhood meeting.  Choose a date and time that will be convenient for most neighbors and the NPO Officer(s).  Choose a convenient location known to most neighbors, such as a school auditorium, church, public library or recreation center.  Encourage neighbors to bring refreshments. 

Homeowners Associations

Questions frequently arise regarding the relationship between homeowners associations and crime watch associations.  Here are some examples:

  • The two groups are combined
  • The groups are separate but work together
  • The groups are completely independent of each other

There are pros and cons to any of these arrangements.  Certainly there are efficiencies in having one neighborhood group.  The purpose and goals of a crime watch are clearly defined, but the purpose and goals of a homeowners association may change as neighborhood sentiment toward current issues changes.

Whether or not to organize as a part of an established homeowners association is an individual decision that must be made by the group.  One point that should be made, however, is that crime watch, by its very nature, should be open to all neighbors, whether or not they participate or pay dues to any other organization.  To be most effective, a crime watch should welcome all residents as members and should remain as free of politics whenever possible.

How to create an organization:

If you want to formalize the group you might consider preparing a constitution and bylaws. It is always best to get copies of constitutions and bylaws from similar organizations. The following is a brief guideline:

  • Establish a committee to obtain copies of constitutions and bylaws from well-established similar organizations.
  • The committee should select the most appropriate one to use as a guide.
  • Amend the appropriate section to meet the needs of your organization.
  • The constitution will usually contain:
    • Name of the organization
    • Qualifications of members
    • Officers and their election and duties
    • Meeting of the organization (but only the essential leaving the details for the bylaws)
    • How to amend the constitution

These items can be arranged into 5 articles, with each article divided into various sections. Since the constitution has only the fundamental information, an organization should make it very difficult to amend the constitution.

The bylaws should contain all of the other rules of the organization that are too important to be changed without giving prior notice to all members about the proposed changes. Every organization should have one rule in particular. This rule can be in the bylaws or in the rules of order. This rule states the following: “The rules contained in (select a book on parliamentary procedure) shall govern the organization in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with the rules of order (or bylaws) of this organization.”

The rules of order, bylaws, and constitution should contain some provision for amendments.

Crime Watch Chairperson

 A crime watch cannot work well without citizen volunteers in key positions to assume certain duties and responsibilities.  Primary among these volunteers is the Crime Watch Chairperson.  The Chairperson is the leader who generally organizes the other volunteers and who acts as liaison with the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and CWEB.

 Who Should Be the Chairperson?

Often the chairperson is the one who initiated the move to organize the crime watch.  Some neighborhoods hold elections for this position annually.  Most neighborhoods are more informal.  The person who exhibits the most interest takes on the position and maintains it for several years.  In neighborhoods with active homeowners’ associations, the Chairperson may be the association’s president, or may be a committee head.  Often the crime watch organization is independent and separate from the homeowner’s association.  There is no one right way to determine who should be the chairperson.  Each neighborhood should do what suits it best.

How Long Should the Term Be?

Most neighborhoods have no set term limit for their leader.  From the standpoint of the police department and many crime watch members, a chairperson who continues year after year may be more effective because of the expertise gained over a period of years.  On the other hand, if procedures are not established in advance it may be difficult for members to replace an inactive or ineffective chairperson.  The term of office for the chair can be included in the bylaws.

Responsibilities of the Chairperson

The chairperson has overall responsibility for all activities of the crime watch group.  Depending upon the size of the neighborhood and the level of involvement of the neighbors, the chairperson may do virtually everything solely or may delegate one or many activities to individual volunteers, committees of volunteers, block captains or section coordinators.

Some neighborhoods expect and demand that their leaders be democratic in their approach to program development.  Other groups expect a leader to direct the program.  Typically, successful groups periodically will offer their members a forum for suggestions and the opportunity to get involved with the organization.

As a rule, chairpersons are personally involved in most activities during the organizational stage of the crime watch group, but may begin to delegate duties as block captains are recruited and a core of volunteers is built up.  Delegation of some of the duties is recommended whenever possible so as not to overburden the crime watch leader.

Duties of the Chairperson

The following common duties of the chairperson, as mentioned above, may be delegated to other volunteers or committees depending upon the size of the task.

  • Hold an organizational meeting with other concerned citizens to establish the goals of the group.
  • Assist in the recruitment and selection of section coordinators and block captains when openings exist. Maintain a list of their names, email addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Appoint or hold an election for a Treasurer if funds will be solicited and used.
  • Serve as the liaison between the neighborhood crime watch and the DPD for dissemination of crime statistics and crime prevention information and act as a spokesperson for the crime watch area.
  • Attend or have a representative attend the DPD’s crime watch meetings.
  • Acquire and maintain an area map.
  • Assist in the training of crime watch participants.
  • Submit the request for crime watch sign installation, if signs are needed.
  • Meet with block captains and section coordinators, if any, on a regular basis every three months or as needed to:
  • Review the progress of the crime watch organization
  • Provide crime statistics for the area and pass on other information provided by the police department
  • Establish good communications among all participants and provide a forum for suggestions and feedback.
  • Conduct the general business of the organization.
  • Plan at least one community meeting each year to meet with residents and discuss new topics important to the organization.
  • Encourage and assist new areas to establish a crime watch.
  • Consider publishing a newsletter periodically.

Rewards of the Chairperson

Don’t be discouraged by the amount of work initially involved in forming a crime watch.  Once organized, the group will operate smoothly with the biggest reward being a safer, friendlier neighborhood in which to live.  Neighbors will truly appreciate your efforts and look up to you as a neighborhood leader and spokesperson.  The personal satisfaction of knowing that you were instrumental in helping to acquaint your neighbors and for forming a real neighborhood is often a reward that money can’t buy. 

Additional Information

Some DPD Divisions have a support group of crime watch activists who are willing to act as mentors for other groups.  If you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the tasks at hand, ask your NPO (Neighborhood Police Officer) if he or she can put you in touch with someone who may be able to offer assistance.  The Crime Watch Executive Board members for each division are also available to provide guidance or advice. See other topics within this section for further information on Block Captains and Section Coordinators and Recruiting Volunteers. 

Where to Get Help

Everyone wants a crime watch group to succeed.  Crime is everyone’s business and help is out there, but it is not always easy to find. The most important thing to remember is that you probably won’t get any help unless you ask for it, and sometimes you will have to ask several times.  Don’t give up!  Your neighbors and the police department have a stake in the success of your crime watch group.  Surrounding neighborhoods, nearby businesses, schools and churches all can be positively impacted by your crime watch group.  All of these organizations may be willing to provide help in some form.

When You Need Crime Watch Expertise

The best starting place in the area is your NPO who is also known as the crime watch officer.  They deal with crime watch groups every day and probably can answer most of your questions.  They also may be able to refer you to a crime watch mentor who will offer guidance based on past experience.  Most of the substations have experienced and successful crime watch chairpersons and groups who are willing to help and share their experiences with you. Your Crime Watch Executive Board representative is also available to provide assistance.

When You Need Volunteers

Obviously, your neighbors are going to be your best source of volunteers.  Often neighbors sit back and assume that someone else will volunteer, or they may not be as qualified to help as other neighbors.  Encourage all of your neighbors to volunteer at least once in some capacity.  Ask them to refer other neighbors who will help.  Keep asking for help until you get it.

When You Need Equipment or Facilities

If you need typing, copying, flyer or newsletter production and there is no one in your neighborhood that can help, ask a nearby church or business if it would be possible to use their equipment.  Perhaps your neighbors can reciprocate with a special project for them.  Businesses often will sponsor meetings or newsletters in return for public acknowledgment of their contribution.  Include nearby businesses or churches in your crime watch activities.  It never hurts to ask, and more often than not you will be pleasantly surprised.  The worst that can happen is that they will say no.

Block Captains and Section Coordinators

Block captains are a very important part of the crime watch organization because the block captains often are the only direct contact with the organization for many of the neighbors.  In order for communication to flow effectively to and from neighbors, they need to feel the block captain is interested and available to hear their comments.

Not every crime watch group has block captains.  Some operate effectively without block captains, but a big advantage in recruiting block captains is a more even distribution of the workload and increased communication among residents.  The number of block captains will depend upon the size of the neighborhood and the number of residences on each street.  In some neighborhoods, co-block captains share responsibility for a block.  In others, a captain may be responsible for more than one block.  As a rule, a block captain can be most effective with a limited number of households, possibly 10 to 15 homes depending on the average number of homes on your blocks.

Duties of the Block Captain

Meet the neighbors on the block, inform them about the crime watch group, get their input about what is important to them and enlist their help to organize the block and/or neighborhood.

  • Prepare and maintain a block directory listing or map of the block with resident’s names, home addresses, email addresses, and home and work cell phone numbers. Distribute block directory copies to all residents on the block. Assure residents that their information is not shared with any entity or organization outside of the residents of their neighborhood.
  • Distribute meeting flyers and newsletters to the block’s residents as needed.
  • Act as a liaison between all block residents and the section coordinator or chairperson. Meet with neighbors periodically to maintain the flow of information and promote neighborhood cooperation and friendliness.
  • Visit with new residents to inform them about the crime watch program and encourage their participation and membership.
  • Assist in encouraging neighbors to:
  • Recognize and immediately report unusual and suspicious activity
  • Be more observant and accurately record good descriptions, license numbers, etc.
  • Exchange information with the other block residents such as types of automobiles, work hours, emergency contacts and other helpful information so that neighbors may know what is “normal” at each other’s homes.
  • Make their home more secure against illegal entry.
  • Immediately relay information between the neighbors and the chairperson regarding criminal activity.
  • Participate in periodic meetings with the chairperson and section coordinators, if any, and pass on the input received from your neighbors.

Back-up Block Captains

Because of the many ongoing responsibilities of a block captain, it may be advisable to recruit a back-up volunteer willing to fill in when the block captain is unavailable.  This is especially important in areas in which you are relying upon the block captains to distribute urgent information.  Back-up block captains’ responsibilities normally are to substitute for, or assist, the block captain as needed.

Section Coordinators

Section coordinators, who also may be block captains, predominantly are used in very large crime watch areas which have 20 or more block captains.  A section ordinarily is an area of 70 to 120 homes or 5 to 8 blocks each.  A section coordinator serves as a liaison between the crime watch chairperson and the block captains within that section.  It is helpful to have alternates trained as back-up section coordinators.  Section coordinators, usually have the following responsibilities:

  • Recruit block captains within the section when openings exist and maintain a list of their names, home addresses, email address and telephone numbers (home, work, cell).
  • Act as a liaison between all section residents and the crime watch chairperson.
  • Assist the block captains and chairperson, as needed.
  • Meet with block captains regularly, or as needed to:
  • Train block captains in their duties.
  • Review the progress of the crime watch organization.
  • Provide information on criminal activity in the section and the entire area.
  • Distribute crime watch instructional material.
  • Participate in periodic meetings with the block captains and chairperson.

Additional Information

See Recruiting Volunteers in this section for information on how to recruit and keep good volunteers.  It is often advisable to have a supplementary list of other volunteers who are willing to pitch in on occasion when extra help is needed. Understand that personal and business commitments sometimes may cause conflicts. Don’t make being a block captain a burden — good, dependable block captains can be hard to find. 

Crime Watch Budgets

Crime watch groups may need funds or other resources to accomplish their goals.  Adequate funding can make the difference between the success and failure of a crime watch group.  Depending upon the activities with which the group is involved, crime watch expenses may be relatively minor or may be as much as several thousand dollars per year.  A typical crime watch group operates on less than $500 per year, and many groups operate on less than $100 per year.  Major sources of funding for crime watch groups may include one or more combination of the following:

  • Crime watch membership dues assessed to individual neighbors. These dues often range from $1 to $25 per year.
  • Voluntary contributions from individual neighbors. Voluntary contributions often are requested routinely by including a short mail-in contribution form on all newsletter or flyers sent out by the organization.  Many groups receive enough funds in this manner that no other fund raising activities are necessary.
  • Homeowners’ associations in the area may provide periodic contributions or recurring funding.
  • Newsletter subscriptions can be an additional source funds.

Types of Expenses

The crime watch expenses can vary considerably by neighborhood and the types of activities in which you are involved. Some crime watch expenses are one-time only, and some are recurring.  Examples of common crime watch expenses are:

  • Crime watch street signs ($22 to $25 each, one-time)
  • Voice mail ($130 to $400 per year, recurring)
  • Voice mail signs ($12 to $50 each, one-time)
  • Postage, if volunteers are not available (costs vary by area, one-time or recurring); Newsletters (costs vary, recurring)
  • Flyers (costs vary, one-time or recurring)
  • Meeting costs, if any (often no cost, recurring)
  • Social event costs, if any (costs vary, recurring)
  • Block directory costs, if any (costs vary, recurring)

You may have various resources in your own neighborhood.  Many neighbors will be willing to volunteer their skills, such as typing, computer, design, public speaking or organizational skills.  Neighbors may volunteer to perform copying, design newsletters or flyers or provide resources such as paper or refreshments for meetings and social events.  Local businesses sometimes provide resources and services at reduced rates, or no charge, to crime watch groups in exchange for recognition.  One of the first steps is to determine what you want to accomplish during the year and estimate the cost.

Neighbors will be more likely to support an activity if they are given the opportunity to be involved in the decision making process and know how their money will be spent.  Determine what aspects of the budget might be accomplished through volunteers or donations.

Make your needs known to the neighbors at a meeting, in a flyer or newsletter.  Be specific about what is needed and how much time will be involved.  Ask for suggestions.  Neighbors may be able to refer you to someone else who will help.

After you have estimated the portion of costs that may come from volunteers or business sponsors, the remainder is the amount you will need to collect from your neighbors.  It is important to remember that no matter how small the suggested contribution or dues, all households will not participate.  In many neighborhoods, only 50% or fewer of the households will contribute monetarily to crime watch.  Better results sometimes are achieved by asking neighbors to “give what they can”, than by setting an expected contribution amount.  Neighbors also will be more comfortable about giving if they know how the money will be spent.

Accounting

The group may want to elect or appoint  a Treasurer to handle the funds.  The duty of the Treasurer may sometimes be performed by the crime watch chairperson.  Regardless of who is responsible, a simple accounting of the funds at the end of the year is a good practice to assure your neighbors that the money was used appropriately.  This accounting at a minimum should consist of the following:

Cash contributions collected                       $0.00

Money spent:

Neighborhood voice mail     $0.00

Voice mail signs                   $0.00

Meeting flyer                        $0.00

Meeting refreshments         $0.00

Total expenses                      $0.00

Current surplus                      $0.00

Depending upon the amount of money involved, the crime watch association may set up a separate bank account for the funds.  Some banks will offer crime watch groups accounts with no service fees.  Shop around before opening an account.  Some form of accountability should be decided upon before collecting funds in order to avoid problems in the future.  The person handling the funds might be accountable to the group as a whole, the association president or an audit committee.  Generally, one person or a small group should be designated with the authority to approve expenditures because it can be difficult to get the entire group to agree in a timely manner. 

Fund Raising

Crime watch does not cost a lot of money.  You may have abundant resources in your neighborhood and neighbors frequently volunteer to fill many of the needs of a crime watch group.  When your neighbors’ dues or contributions aren’t enough to cover the costs of your crime watch activities, you may need to turn to an additional method of raising funds. 

Common Methods of Fund Raising

Numerous avenues of fund raising are available to crime watch groups.  Several common methods of fund raising are:

  • Newsletter subscriptions
  • Neighborhood contribution campaign
  • Advertising (realtors, banks, tree service companies, etc.)
  • Raffles of donated items
  • Sales of “neighborhood spirit” items, such as t-shirts, caps, decals, mugs
  • Neighborhood social events
  • Car washes
  • Recycling projects
  • Neighborhood garage sales or bake sales

Sometimes the activity you want to implement is also the means of raising the funds.  For example, if your neighbors would like to have vehicle stickers to identify cars that belong in the area, you may be able to furnish them for a minor charge.  Similarly, if neighbors want to hold a party, a small per-person charge might be enough to cover the expenses of the event.

Other helpful sources of fund raising are restaurants and other local retail businesses.  These merchants often will donate gift certificates, which may be awarded to outstanding volunteers or be offered as raffle or door prizes.  Local businesses occasionally will sponsor meetings or other events by providing drinks, ice or refreshments.  Merchants may sponsor your crime watch voice mail system in return for mention of their sponsorship in your voice mail message, newsletter or on your voice mail signs.  Real estate and insurance agents may provide newsletter copying services or sponsor crime watch signs.  In return, these businesses will expect public acknowledgement of their contribution at a meeting or in your newsletter.  Crime is everyone’s problem – it never hurts to ask.

Recruiting Volunteers

The commitment of volunteers is essential to the success of a crime watch group.  Crime watch chairpersons who try to do everything quickly become “burned out” and the organization suffers accordingly.  Many different skills may be available from within your neighborhood.  Involving a cross section of neighbors will not only help to distribute the workload, but also will help to ensure that goals are set by the group and that support will be obtained from the general community.  By dividing the workload into smaller tasks, several people may contribute without putting an unnecessary burden on anyone person. 

How do you Recruit Volunteers?

  • Ask for help. Be specific about what is needed, how much time or expertise will be involved and when and where the work will be performed.
  • Ask volunteers to recruit friends. But make sure these friends are interested in helping before relying on them.
  • Let people know they will gain skills and opportunities from their volunteer efforts. For instance, they may make friends with neighbors, gain leadership skills or gain experience in some area in which they are interested, such as writing or computer usage.
  • Publicize all of your activities through newsletters, voice mail, flyers, telephone calls, meetings and social events.

How do you Keep Good Volunteers?

Encourage all of your neighbors to get involved in some way.  Everyone has something to offer (a skill, time, money, etc.). Make them feel important for whatever it is that they can contribute even if it is something as simple as baking a cake for a meeting.  To motivate people, you need to know what is important to them, what their interests are and what makes them want to join in an activity.

  • Stress project results. Plan your projects to achieve short-term recognizable successes. Set goals and then celebrate when they are achieved.
  • Ask volunteers for their ideas and suggestions. Establish your goals as a group and make sure that everyone knows what the group’s goals are.
  • Keep volunteers informed. Good communication takes time, but failure to do so invites dissention and misunderstanding.
  • Never turn down a volunteer. If you think the person is not suited for a specific task, try to divert that person to another project in which he or she will excel.
  • Give current volunteers public credit and proper thanks at every opportunity. Awards, newsletter articles or a pat on the back are only a few of the ways group leaders can stimulate continued interest.  Sometimes other neighbors are encouraged to volunteer when they learn that their neighbor has helped in some way.
  • Be diplomatic. Volunteers do not like being told what to do, especially if they believe their points of view have not been considered in the decision-making process.  Don’t ask for too much.  Consider whether the project can be split into smaller segments or be carried out over a longer period of time to avoid overtaxing one volunteer.

In What Areas Will You Need Volunteers?

The needs of your crime watch group will change as you evolve from the organizational stage to the operational stage. Volunteer needs also will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood depending upon the activities or goals of your group.  Several areas in which volunteers may be needed in crime watch groups are as follows:

  • Public Speaking
  • Clerical Skills/Organizing Techniques
  • Designing Flyers
  • Social Event Planning
  • Meeting Planning
  • Membership Recruiting
  • Accounting
  • Distribution of Information
  • Fund Raising
  • Children’s Activities
  • Statistics
  • Writing/Composing a Newsletter or Articles
  • Providing Refreshments
  • Making Telephone Calls
  • Computer Skills
  • Legal Advice
  • Advertising/Public Relations
  • Photography
  • City and/or Local School Liaison

Training Volunteers

Plan clear responsible roles for volunteers and provide supervision and directions when necessary.  Monitor and evaluate their performance to ensure that your crime watch group is represented appropriately.  Volunteers may need training and occasional monitoring to ensure that they:

  • Understand the goals and objectives of the project.
  • Provide accurate information about your program.
  • Have the necessary skills to do their assignment.
  • Know what to do if there is a problem.
  • Don’t do anything that could backfire.

 Additional Information

People who take the time to come to your meetings are your best source of volunteers.  Prepare a volunteer sign-up sheet to be used at neighborhood meetings or events.  Call volunteers within a week to thank them for volunteering and to let them know specifically how and when they can help.  This is particularly important if you currently do not have a project to assign to them.  Volunteers who do no hear from the organization until months after their offer of help will assume you do not need them or forget they offered assistance.

Block Directories and Maps

One of the basic concepts of crime watch is that neighbors who get to know each other are more likely to notice unusual or suspicious activities in the area.  It is essential that neighbors look out for one another because the police cannot be everywhere.  Block directories and maps are important crime watch tools to ensure that neighbors have the information necessary to contact one another when they notice something odd around the neighborhood or a neighbor’s home.  Block directories typically include the neighbors’ names, addresses, email address and home, work and mobile telephone numbers.  Maps generally show the whole neighborhood and may include specific residence details.  Directories may be as simple as a hand-written listing of your immediate neighbors, or as elaborate as a printed booklet complete with vehicle descriptions and license numbers, cross referenced to a detailed area map. 

Block Directory Procedures

For purposes of this example, it is assumed that a block captain will prepare a street directory starting from scratch with no knowledge about his or her neighbors.

  1. Introduce yourself to your next door neighbors as the crime watch block captain for your street. Tell them that you are preparing a crime watch block directory and explain its purpose.  Obtain their names, telephone numbers, and any other details you are gathering.  Let them know that you will provide a completed directory to them.
  2. Ask these neighbors for the names and telephone numbers of any people they know on the street. Call these neighbors, introduce yourself and explain as above.
  3. If you cannot obtain the data for all of the households by telephone, visit the remaining neighbors’ homes to ask for the information or to provide them with a form to complete at a time that is more convenient for them.
  4. After about a week, follow up with neighbors who have not provided the information. Occasionally neighbors do not wish to be included in the directory. Suggest that at a minimum, they may want to provide an emergency contact, or give the details individually to their next-door neighbors.
  5. A diagram or map of the street can also be very helpful. This can be prepared by drawing boxes representing each house on graph paper or by using the map procedures outlined on the following page.
  6. Compile the information neatly, date the form and make enough copies for each neighbor. Call the neighbors to tell them the directory is available and make arrangements to distribute a copy to each neighbor.  Since the block directories should be kept confidential, don’t leave them on porches where anyone coming to the door can pick them up.
  7. Directories typically should be updated once per year or more often if there have been many changes on your street. Preparing the first directory can be time-consuming, but after the original document is complete, updated data usually can be obtained easily over the telephone or via email.
  8. As new neighbors move in, provide a copy of the directory to them and obtain their specific information even if you will not be able to update the entire directory at that time. New neighbors generally welcome the information and are glad to know there is a crime watch association in the neighborhood.

Other Sources

Other sources which may be useful in compiling the data for your directory are sign-in sheets from your crime watch meetings, homeowners, association records and local school and church directories.  You can also research the names of property owners at dcad.org (the Dallas County Appraisal District website).  The Coles Cross Reference Directory, available at your local public library, lists all city streets in alphabetical order.  Within each street listing, every household is listed in numerical order by address.  Find your block number and make a copy of that page.  Personal follow up still will be required because the data may not be current, and it likely will not include all of the details you may need for your directory.

Map Procedures

  1. For a simple area map, make an enlarged copy of the appropriate section from a city street map, Mapsco pages or Google map. Call your crime watch officer if you need help identifying your boundaries.
  2. For a more detailed map that outlines each residential lot, visit City Hall to obtain a copy of the city plat of the street or neighborhood from the Plat Records Section. There may be a small charge for this service and you may need a copy of more than one page.
  3. Look over your map copy and white out any extraneous markings, such as zoning codes. Make one, or two, enlarged 11″ x I4″ (legal size) copies to work with.  On your working copy, write in the addresses, and if there is room, the neighbors’ names and telephone numbers.  Use a pencil so that it will be easier to change when new residents move in.  Additionally, provide block captains with a map of their street and get their assistance in compiling the rest of the details.
  4. You may want to make reduced copies of your completed map for block captains or for distribution to your neighbors. You also may want to make a large 36″x36″ copy for display at meetings.  Either the large or small maps may be color coded to indicate block captains, business or apartment areas, crime watch members or other aspects of your crime watch area. This can be accomplished with color highlighters or colored stickers, or quite possibly on the computer.  Like the block directory, the original map may be time consuming to prepare, but updates should not take much time.

Additional Information

Depending upon how ambitious you and your block captains are, other details you may want to include in the directory are:

  • Names and ages of children
  • Work and School hours
  • Vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers
  • Pet information (number of dogs and/or cats as well as their names and if microchipped)
  • An emergency contact in case something happens when the resident is out of town.

These include a simple one-page block directory form, a form letter to request block directory information and a “nine-home” chart which can be provided to neighbors to complete for themselves.  The chairperson probably will want to keep a master map and listing of all residents for membership lists, mailings, and other needs.  A volunteer willing to maintain a computer database of neighbors can be very helpful in producing mailing address labels when needed.

Crime Watch Participant Guidelines

The best way to take an active part in crime prevention is to participate in a crime watch in which each person becomes more alert and aware of what is going on within the area. Participation in a crime watch is not an activity that requires a lot of time.  It means only that each person adopts a more observant attitude on a daily basis.  Neighbors will get to know each other better, and as a result, will become more aware of strange cars, persons or circumstances which might be a danger and require calling the police.  The following guidelines have proven to be successful:

  • Get to know your neighbors. Know their names and be able to identify them and their vehicles by sight.
  • Maintain a map or block directory of the immediate neighborhood with names, addresses, emails and phone numbers.
  • Make the home as burglar proof as possible.
  • Mark all property for identification by using the Operation ID Program.
  • Register your vehicle under the Texas Heat Program.
  • Be observant and watch over neighbors’ homes, especially when they are not home or are out of town.
  • Write down license plate numbers and descriptions of suspicious looking vehicles and/or good descriptions of any suspicious persons. Immediately report them to the police at 911.
  • Report information that may be helpful to your Crime Watch Chairperson.
  • Call the neighborhood voicemail (if you have one) on a regular basis to keep informed.
  • Educate children in crime prevention and teach respect for law enforcement officers.
  • Volunteer to help your crime watch organization in any way that you can, whether it involves your time or financial support.

Reporting Suspicious Activity

Anything that seems slightly “out of place” or is occurring at an unusual time of day can be criminal activity.  Call the police at 911 immediately about all suspicious activity!  Do not worry that you are bothering the police or about being embarrassed if your suspicions prove to be unfounded. Think instead about what can happen if you don’t act.  A listing of suspicious activities is included in the Making a Report to DPD.docx  section.

All calls to the police to report crimes or suspicious activity should be made to 911.  The police department prefers to investigate rather than to be called when it is too late.  Your call can save a life, prevent an injury or stop a criminal act.  Be alert!

Keep your crime watch chairperson informed of any crimes or suspicious activities in the area so that other neighbors may be informed.  Armed with this knowledge, neighbors may take action that can prevent a similar crime from happening to them.  Neighborhoods with voice mail, phone trees email blasts or a Nextdoor.com  website are able to pass this information along to all of the neighbors in a short period of time, thus alerting the entire neighborhood to be “on the look-out.” 

How to Maintain Interest in Crime Watch

The key to keeping a crime watch group active is to maintain people’s interest over time.  The goal is to create a “small town” environment, even in large cities or apartments, where people care about their neighbors and their neighborhoods.  A sense of pride in the community and recognition of successes achieved will draw people together.

Active neighborhood, apartment and business groups can make changes through their local officials, such as improving street lighting, altering police patrol schedules and changing traffic flow patterns.  At the same time, neighbors can hold block parties, potluck dinners and neighborhood cleanup campaigns. 

Crime Prevention Programs

Crimes watch programs can be fun.  Remember that people are most likely to become involved and remain interested if the programs are fun as well as meaningful.  Use your imagination.  The following are some specific crime prevention activities that you can implement:

  • Home Security Education – This can be accomplished by distributing written information provided by the DPD, inviting an officer to speak at a meeting having a security company do a presentation or encouraging individual home security surveys which DPD can provide.
  • DPD Crime Prevention Presentation – Plan a neighborhood meeting around a property identification etching campaign, a group HEAT registration or any of the DPD programs included in Section VII.
  • Volunteers in Patrol/V.I.P. – Neighbors patrolling their own neighborhood in a non-confrontational way may give neighbors a sense of satisfaction rather than a feeling of being powerless about crime. V.I.P. signs can be installed throughout your neighborhood, though you will have to pay for the fabrication costs. Installation is free through the City of Dallas Street Services.
  • Teen Crime Watch – Help organize a teen crime watch at a local junior high or high school. Arrange for speakers to teach students ways to protect themselves, to say no to drugs and alcohol, to settle problems without violence, to report potential criminal activity and where to get help when they need it. Encourage teens to analyze their neighborhoods and put together a beneficial project they can tackle on their own.
  • Safety Fairs – Combine forces with other nearby groups, businesses and churches to invite local vendors to come and display their safety products.
  • Crime Watch Network – Develop a network with other crime watch areas and nearby groups to exchange information, provide support to each other and combine forces for activities that may not be feasible for an individual group.
  • Safe Schools – Form a coalition with the school to patrol school grounds, monitor playground and provide safe routes for children to walk to school.

Benefits of Neighborhood Watch

There are obvious benefits that Neighborhood Crime Watch volunteers and their communities have experienced throughout the years such as:

  • crime reduction
  • a better quality of life
  • a greater sense of security, responsibility, and personal control
  • build community pride and unity
  • preparing for helping ourselves and others in our community
  • provide law enforcement agencies with volunteer support year round
  • citizens become the extra “eyes and ears” of law enforcement personnel and therefore reduce law enforcement‘s burden

Other Community Activities

Remember that crime doesn’t have to be the only focus of your group.  Some of the most successful crime watch groups have other areas of interest that tie the community together.  Since getting to know your neighbors is one of the basic concepts of crime watch, often social or community activities are an effective way to make this happen.  The following list of ideas may spur you on to think of an activity for your group.

  1. Organizing recycling program
  2. Neighborhood beautification and/or clean-up (including alleyways or local park and graffiti)
  3. Lobby the city to:
    1. Improving lighting
    2. Clean up vacant lots
    3. Repair streets/sidewalks
    4. Enforce code ordinances
    5. Enact zoning changes
    6. Helping elderly neighbors
    7. Install outdoor security lights or motion detectors at resident’s homes
    8. Clean up yards/trim shrubs for a resident or throughout the neighborhood
    9. Install smoke detectors (Dallas Fire Rescue will install these at no charge for City of Dallas residents)
  4. Food and/or coat/clothing drive for those in need
  5. Adopt a school or park
  6. Walking/jogging clubs
  7. Community spirit campaign or Support a Neighborhood sports team:
    1. T-Shirts, caps
    2. Flags, ribbons
    3. Car decals
  8. Alleyway or curbside house numbering campaign, including on homes themselves (City of Dallas Code requires all residences/businesses have their visible address number on the home/building)
  9. Babysitting club
  10. A parade with kids and pets, a children’s carnival and/or pet show
  11. Neighborhood teen job programYard or garage salesBake sales
  12. Bicycle safety training and/or Fire safety training
  13. Organize kid’s summer activities
  14. Yard of the month award (Calloway’s Nursery has a Yard of the Month program for neighborhoods)
  15. Car pools for kids or elderly
  16. Tree planting for parkways (trees are free through the City of Dallas Forester and can coordinate plantings)
  17. Neighborhood directory
  18. Community garden (Dallas County Master Gardeners can help coordinate and develop these)
  19. Sign toppers to identify neighborhood
  20. Homemade treats for police
  21. Arts or Craft show
  22. Offer a scholarship to a local senior
  23. Install safety devices such as deadbolt locks, window security locks, door jamb reinforcements for residents
  24. Hotline to clean/board-up in emergencies[City of Dallas CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) can provide educational programs for meetings or events regarding Emergency Preparedness]
  25. Neighborhood blood drive (Carter Blood Care http://www.carterbloodcare.org)
  26. Teacher appreciation day

DOCUMENT CONTROL SECTION

Date

Approved

Author Revision made to document Ver
Unk Unk Original Document 1
05/01/14 Valadez Major revision of document. 2

 

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