Does Neighborhood Watch Work?
In many cities and towns, you can’t walk down the street without seeing a cartoon silhouette of a sinister cloaked figure alongside the words NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH. But just what is Neighborhood Watch? And does it work?
The National Sheriff’s Association created the National Neighborhood Watch Program 50 years ago this year, with the aim of establishing guidelines and offering support for citizen crime watch programs. While it started out as a way to prevent home burglaries, the program evolved into an “extra eyes and ears” approach to monitoring suspicious behavior.
There are more than 28,000 official Neighborhood Watches across the U.S., and studies do indicate that they reduce crime by as much as 16%. But critics say that the well-intentioned program can breed vigilantism, most famously in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch coordinator George Zimmerman.
- Supporters say Neighborhood Watch provides security, builds community connections, and may deter crime.
- Critics say Neighborhood Watch can be dangerous for participants, impede official police work, and lead to allegations based on bias.
Is there a Neighborhood Watch where you live? How do you feel about it, and about crime in general in your area? Let us know by taking our poll.