“How to Start & Maintain a Neighborhood Watch Program”

Now that you’ve read about the benefits of Neighborhood Watch you may want to know, “How do I get a Watch Group started in my neighborhood?”

FIRST: Talk to your neighbors. See if there’s interest in forming a Neighborhood Watch group in your area. If there is, contact Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral or the Police Department for help. 

SECOND: Contact the Cape Coral Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit (242-3710) and request a meeting with a Crime Prevention Specialist or a District Resource Officer (DRC). They will be glad to either meet with you individually or with the group at your first meeting. You may also register your Watch Block by attending one of the Quarterly General Meetings of Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral (see meetings/events).

THIRD:Talk to your neighbors again. Tell them about the benefits of the program and the problems to be addressed. Ask about convenient times and places for the first meeting. Be sure to mention that Neighborhood Watch does not require frequent meetings or personal risks, and that a representative from Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral or the Police Department will be at the first meeting. 

FOURTH:Plan the first meeting.  Select a date, time, and a place.  Meetings are usually held at a home, school, church, or community center. Send out meeting announcements a few weeks ahead of the date.  You can distribute fliers, make phone calls, or send emails.  Send out reminders a few days before the meeting.

Prepare an agenda and sign-in sheet for the first meeting. Ask the Police Department’s representative to talk about the crime and disorder problems in your area and how to report suspicious activity. The meeting should last about one hour. Consider providing refreshments, e.g., cookies and coffee. The agenda should allow time for questions, answers, and other topics.

FIFTH:Conduct the first meeting.  The first meeting is critical in forming a group.  All attendees should introduce themselves and sign a sheet with their name, address, phone number, and email address so they can be contacted about future meetings and activities.  They should be assured that their personal information will not be given to anyone without their permission.  The police department will talk about the topics listed above and answer questions.  The group should then define the area to be covered and select a Block Captain or Co-Captains.

Block Areas

Neighborhood Watch groups can be formed in any geographical unit: a block, apartment/condo complex, park, business area, public housing complex, office or marina. A few concerned residents, a community organization, or a law enforcement agency can spearhead the effort to organize a Neighborhood Watch. Any community resident can join.

Block Captains or Co-Captains

The Block Captain or Co-Captain has one of the most important functions in the Neighborhood Watch program: supervising the participants who join the Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral in their neighborhood. The Block Captain or Co-Captain is responsible for a designated territory and is expected to:

  • Contact the Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral to register your Watch Group;
  • Encourage neighborhood participation in the program;
  • Welcome new neighbors to your area and encourage them to join the Watch Group;
  • Compile a list of all persons in the designated area who wish to participate in the program, including their address, phone numbers and email addresses;
  • Assist in formation and maintenance of telephone/email communication system;
  • Coordinate the scheduling of neighborhood meetings, if necessary;
  • Communicate information pertaining to all Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral Quarterly Meetings, as well as any special meetings that may be organized;
  • Inform all members of the Neighborhood Watch crime prevention techniques, i.e. how to recognize suspicious activities, how and when to use the 911 and/or non-emergency Cape Coral Police Department dispatch numbers; and
  • Forward any communications from Neighborhood Watch of Cape Coral to the members of your Watch Group, i.e. fraud alerts, meeting notices, special information, etc.

Develop Citizen Awareness

Meetings of your Neighborhood Watch group should help develop citizen awareness and proper response to suspected or actual criminal activity. Speakers from law enforcement as well as a wide range of community organizations are available for this training. Topics may include:

  • Recognizing suspicious activity;
  • Describing and reporting suspicious events, vehicles and persons;
  • Home security inspections;
  • Home security measures;
  • Confrontation with intruders; and
  • Personal safety/self defense.

Keeping Your Neighborhood Watch Group Alive

Your Watch Group will have high interest at the start-up and for a few meetings thereafter. The real trick is keeping the group active and involved for years. Here’s a list of ideas to help you have regular activities in which all the participants have fun, socialize and attempt to solve neighborhood problems.

Carpooling: Share a ride to work, downtown, shopping, etc., with a neighbor or two – especially the seniors on your block.

Block Clean-up: Rent a dumpster for a weekend. Neighbors can share tools and expertise to help one another. Get together and help clean up a yard of a foreclosed home in your area. Cap off the day with a celebration of your achievement.
Block Garage Sale: Buy an ad in the local paper and post signs advertising your big block-wide garage sale. Conduct it on the same Saturday and get the whole block involved. 

Group Material Buying: Many nurseries, building supply businesses, equipment rental centers, etc. will give customers a discount on large orders. Tie this in with your block clean-up day; purchasing palm trees, fruit trees, shrubbery, or renting home repair equipment.

Disaster Preparedness: Every part of SW Florida is susceptible to floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados or other disasters. Develop plans to cope with these emergencies and insure that all participants have their homes prepared, and food and water supplies on hand.

Walking/Exercise Groups: It’s more fun to exercise with a companion. Organize a weight loss or fitness competition. Celebrate with a low-cal pot luck.