Across the nation crime is of concern to citizens in cities, suburbs, towns, and rural areas. Increasingly, citizens and law enforcement professionals realize that neither one can eradicate crime working separately. Neighbors and other concerned citizens, working cooperatively with law enforcement, can have a positive effect. Home burglaries, in particular, can be minimized when community residents take steps to make their homes less attractive and vulnerable to burglars. Burglary, the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft, is generally considered a crime against property. It has, however, a high potential for death or injury to the victim who comes into surprise contact with the intruder. Through the well recognized concept of NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH, a communitybased program supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association since 1972, residents of thousands of communities across the nation have discovered that they can make a difference in preventing crime.
Ask anyone whose home has been burglarized … the shock and helpless anger accompanying the discovery that an intruder has entered one’s home will not easily be forgotten. The damage may be minimal or major, the losses slight or catastrophic. The incident may or may not have involved injury to a family member—yet one hard fact remains: another statistic has been added to the ever-growing list of burglarized homes. The burglar won again—and has no doubt vanished, leaving no real clue to lead to his arrest.
Chances are good that a home burglarized today is located in a neighborhood where one vital prevention tool is missing: an active NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH group. This community-based organization of citizens working together with law enforcement has become the key to preventing burglary and crime nationwide.
The National Sheriffs’ Association created the National NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH Program in 1972, with financial assistance from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, to unite law enforcement agencies, private organizations, and individual citizens in a massive effort to reduce residential crime. A work plan emerged for use by sheriffs, police, and citizens for putting together local neighborhood-based programs. Since its establishment, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH has developed thousands of such local residential crime prevention programs in which individual citizens work to 1) make their own homes and families less inviting targets for crime, and 2) cooperate with law enforcement through block and neighborhood groups to control crime throughout the community.
The prevention of crime—particularly crime involving residential neighborhoods—is a responsibility that must be shared equally by law enforcement and private citizens. The fact is, the impact on crime prevention by law enforcement alone is minimal when compared with the power of private citizens working with law enforcement and with each other. NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH is based on this concept of cooperation, and nationwide statistics prove that it works. When citizens take positive steps to secure their own property and neighbors learn how to report suspicious activity around their homes, burglary and related offenses decrease dramatically.
You’ve heard about the benefits of NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH participation. You suspect—or know—that there is a crime problem in your area. How do you get a program started in your neighborhood?
Form a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, and possible problems.
Contact the Washington County VA Sheriff’s Office (276) 676-6000. Request that a crime prevention officer come to a meeting of your group in the near future to discuss NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH and help assess your community’s problems and needs. Contact the Sheriff’s Office 10 to 14 days in advance and inform officials of the date and place of the first meeting.
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