“Now I’ve literally become neighborhood watch. I call 911 on people. I’m the old man driving 25-miles-per-hour down Sunset.”

Bob Saget, Actor

Pros and Cons of Neighborhood Watch Groups

advantages and disadvantages of neighborhood watch

The concept of neighborhood watch has become increasingly popular over the past decades. Instead of relying on official police officers to protect the local population, neighborhood watches are operated by private persons who want to make their neighborhoods safer.

While the concept of neighborhood watches can make quite a lot of sense, it also implies some problems. The pros and cons of neighborhood watch are discussed in this article.

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Advantages of Neighborhood Watch

  1. Neighborhood watches may provide additional security
  2. Can help to strengthen the community feeling
  3. You can get to know your neighbors
  4. Confidence levels of locals may increase
  5. People may get a feeling of control
  6. Higher overall feeling of security
  7. May deter potential thieves
  8. Makes it more likely that criminals get caught
  9. People may sleep much better at night
  10. Overall quality of life may increase thanks to neighborhood watch
  11. Neighborhood watch programs can educate community members

Neighborhood watches may provide additional security

One important advantage of neighborhood watch groups is that they can provide additional security in the respective area. In fact, many people feel rather insecure in their respective region and urgently strive to take additional measures to prevent any criminal activities. This is especially true for people who experienced theft and other unpleasant things in the past.

Through the introduction of neighborhood watch programs, the overall security level may increase since it will become less likely that criminals will be successful in their mission.

Can help to strengthen the community feeling

Neighborhood watches can not only improve the overall safety level in a region, it can also help to strengthen the overall feeling of community. In fact, in our current state of the world, we often lose the connection to other people living in our neighborhood. This is especially true for big cities since people often work in office jobs for long hours, come home tired and repeat the whole process almost every day.

In turn, there will simply be not enough time left to connect to other locals, which can lead to a feeling of loneliness. Hence, also from a socializing perspective, introducing neighborhood watches can make quite a lot of sense since if you join those programs, you will interact with many other neighborhood watch members.

Over time, chances are that you will also be able to make many good friendships. Consequently, neighborhood watches can also foster social cohesion in the respective region.

You can get to know your neighbors

Another benefit of neighborhood watch groups is that you can also get to know your neighbors much better. In our current state of the world, many neighbors do no longer know each other and do not even greet each other anymore. Some neighbors even have a rather bad relationship with each other.

This is a rather sad development and in my opinion, neighbors should try to get along with each other and help each other out from time to time. In fact, we are all different and have different strengths and weaknesses. This also implies that neighbors could help each other with different tasks and this would be a win-win situation.

Hence, in order to foster the collaboration of neighbors, neighborhood watches can also help in this regard since neighbors have to coordinate their actions in order to make neighborhood watches as efficient as possible.

Confidence levels of locals may increase

If people know that there is a neighborhood watch that increases the overall level of security, those people will also become more confident since they know that the risk to get robbed or for other unpleasant encounters will be much lower.

In turn, people will be more eager to go outside and to enjoy the nice weather instead of just sitting in their houses in fear that burglars may steal their stuff.

Hence, neighborhood watches can also greatly increase the overall level of confidence of people in the respective regions.

People may get a feeling of control

We as humans also love the feeling to have everything under control. In fact, most of our insecurities are due to the fact that we cannot control things in a sufficient manner. For instance, many people are quite scared of entering a plane. Yet, there is no rational explanation for that since going by plane is much safer than going by car.

However, people feel insecure since they have to rely on the pilot and don’t have control over what happens. The same is true when it comes to neighborhood watches.

Since people will feel that they have more control over the overall security level in their area, they will feel much better, even in case the neighborhood watch may not lead to the desired lower crime rates at all.

Higher overall feeling of security

Another upside of neighborhood watches is that people may benefit from a much higher feeling of insecurity. In fact, elderly or handicapped people are often afraid to leave their homes since they fear getting robbed or to be attacked. This is especially true for rather unsafe neighborhoods.

Thus, especially in those regions, it can make quite a lot of sense to set up proper neighborhood watches. Even though those neighborhood watches may not lower crime rates too much, they may still increase the feeling of security of the local population. Neighborhood watches may also partly work as a placebo.

Even though they might not lower criminal activities from an objective standpoint too much, people may still subjectively feel more secure, which in turn could greatly benefit locals in those neighborhoods.

May deter potential thieves

It is in the nature of neighborhood watches that those programs also deter potential thieves. If neighborhood watches are in place in the respective region, thieves may be less tempted to burglarize since they know that they are at greater risk to get caught.

In turn, those thieves will rather do their burglary in other neighborhoods where they are at lower risk to get caught. Hence, the sole presence of neighborhood watches can also greatly reduce the number of burglary attempts in the respective area.

Makes it more likely that criminals get caught

Neighborhood watches can also help to finally arrest criminals. In fact, if neighborhood watches closely collaborate with local police officers, they can provide some additional value since more people can try to catch potential thieves.

Hence, more thieves can be arrested, which can not only improve the overall safety level in the respective neighborhood, but can also be seen as an act of justice.

People may sleep much better at night

In rather unsafe areas, people also often have problems with falling asleep at night. In fact, many people lie awake in their beds since they fear that a burglar might come and rob their stuff. However, sleep deprivation can be quite harmful to our body and our brain and we need sufficient sleep in order to stay vital and powerful during the day.

Consequently, neighborhood watches can also significantly improve the overall health levels of people in the respective region since people will often simply sleep much better when they know that there is someone who takes care of their home.

Overall quality of life may increase thanks to neighborhood watch

In general, the implementation of neighborhood watch groups can greatly improve the overall quality of life of people in the respective neighborhood.

Since the overall crime rates may decrease and the overall feeling of security may increase, people will be able to enjoy their lives much more.

Moreover, those people will often also sleep much better, which can further improve the overall quality of life.

Neighborhood watch programs can educate community members

Neighborhood watch groups are not only meant to increase the overall level of security in the respective region, they often also aim to educate community members who are actually not part of the neighborhood watch.

In fact, education is key to make our neighborhoods as safe as possible and by educating people about how they can make their home safer, burglars may have a much harder time to be successful in the future.

Thus, also the education aspect of neighborhood watches is quite important to make our neighborhoods safer in the long run.

Disadvantages of Neighborhood Watch Groups

  1. Can imply dangers for its members
  2. Neighborhood watches don’t have the same power as police officers
  3. Neighborhood watches need plenty of organizational efforts
  4. They only work if people know what they are doing
  5. People may get into conflict with local laws
  6. Members of neighborhood watch groups need some instructions
  7. Members may need some self-defense skills
  8. Neighborhood watch can be time-consuming
  9. Neighborhood watch members may become overwhelmed in case of emergency
  10. People may overreact in certain situations
  11. Neighborhood watches rely on a sufficient number of volunteers
  12. May conflict with official police operations
  13. The juice may not be worth the squeeze
  14. There may be better alternatives available to us

Can imply dangers for its members

Although neighborhood watch groups can make sense due to several reasons, there are still some problems related to this concept. For instance, one disadvantage of neighborhood watch groups is that they can imply significant dangers for their members. In fact, being part of a neighborhood watch group can be quite risky since in case you meet a burglar, he or she might physically harm you.

There had been cases in the past where members of neighborhood watch groups died from attacks of criminals. Hence, keep in mind that joining neighborhood watch groups implies a certain risk and that you are ready to pay the price for it.

Neighborhood watches don’t have the same power as police officers

Another problem with neighborhood watches is that they will not have the same power and authority as police officers. In fact, since neighborhood watch groups are founded by normal citizens, their rights are quite confined.

For instance, neighborhood watches may not even be legal in many countries all over the world due to privacy concerns or since the power to supervise others often belongs to government officials and not to private persons.

Moreover, members of neighborhood watches are often also not allowed to arrest criminals, which makes it even harder for those neighborhood watches to act in an efficient manner.

Neighborhood watches need plenty of organizational efforts

Another downside of neighborhood watches is that those watch groups often imply significant amounts of organizational effort. People have to coordinate their actions and have to discuss what happened over the past months and whether the overall security level increased or not.

Moreover, members of neighborhood watches have to make plans for the future regarding how to tackle certain issues that have not been addressed yet.

Consequently, setting up neighborhood watches can also imply significant organizational efforts, which can be quite annoying and exhausting since members may have different opinions on certain topics and it will never be possible to make everyone happy.

They only work if people know what they are doing

While the concept of neighborhood watch groups is rather straightforward and easy to comprehend, neighborhood watches only work if members of those watch groups know what they are doing.

In fact, in many cases, those members are rather clueless regarding what their job really is and often also greatly overestimate their skills.

In turn, this can lead to serious issues and may make the overall neighborhood watch group much more inefficient.

People may get into conflict with local laws

Neighborhood watch groups may also be problematic from a legal perspective. In fact, it is often rather unclear to members of neighborhood watches how far they can go and what is inside the legal framework and what’s not.

Consequently, there had been many cases in the past where members of watch groups took it way too far and had been sued themselves since they thought they were doing the right thing by preventing a crime why it would have been much better just to call the police and to let them do their work.

Hence, if you want to join a neighborhood watch group, make sure that you obey the local laws so that you don’t get into trouble.

Members of neighborhood watch groups need some instructions

Another issue with neighborhood watch groups is that members of those watch groups often need plenty of instruction. In fact, when people join a neighborhood watch, they only have a rough impression regarding what their tasks will be in the future.

However, it is crucial to show to those new members step by step what they have to do in order to make the whole watch group as powerful as possible.

However, those instructions take plenty of time and can also be quite exhausting, which may also deter potential new members from entering those groups.

Members may need some self-defense skills

Before people are ready to join neighborhood watch groups, they often also need proper self-defense skills. In fact, in case of emergency, people have to take care of their own and being a member of watch groups can be quite dangerous.

Hence, in order to be able to defend yourself in case of emergency, it can make sense to join a self-defense course before you actually join the neighborhood watch so that you can increase your own safety level quite a lot.

In fact, seasoned members of watch groups often advise new members to learn how to defend themselves since those experienced members know exactly how important it can really be.

Neighborhood watch can be time-consuming

If you want to join or even want to found a watch group in your neighborhood, make sure that you have enough time for it. Organizing neighborhood watch groups is much more time-consuming than you might think and apart from the actual work, you will also have to organize meetings, instruct new members and do some other bureaucratic work.

Overall, maintaining neighborhood watches can be quite time-consuming and you should really ask yourself whether you have the time and the power to do this additional work or not.

Neighborhood watch members may become overwhelmed in case of emergency

Another problem with neighborhood watches is that their members may also be quite overwhelmed in case of a real-life emergency. Sure, you can train members of watch groups how they should react in theory, yet it is a completely different ball game to act according to that when your life depends on it.

In fact, many people don’t keep their cool and become overwhelmed with the whole situation in real life. In turn, this can lead to serious issues since thieves may be able to escape.

People may overreact in certain situations

In many cases, members of neighborhood watches also overreact in certain situations. This can be quite problematic since members of watch groups are still private persons and don’t have the same authority as official police officers.

In turn, if members of those watch groups overreact and harm a thief too much, chances are that those members are sued and have to pay high fines. In severe cases, those members may even end up in jail.

Consequently, if you plan to join your neighborhood watch, make sure that you keep your composure in tense situations in order to protect yourself against potential fines due to overreactions.

Neighborhood watches rely on a sufficient number of volunteers

In order to work properly, neighborhood watches also need a certain minimum number of volunteers. If there are not enough members in a watch group, those members will simply not be able to make a significant difference since thieves can easily outplay neighborhood watches.

Hence, neighborhood watches are only efficient when enough people join them and in case you plan to found a neighborhood watch in your region, make sure that you have enough people who are willing to join your watch group in order to make a truly positive impact.

May conflict with official police operations

Neighborhood watches can even do more harm than good in case the actions of those watch groups conflict with police operations. In fact, neighborhood watches may lower the efficiency of police operations since thieves may be more aware of the fact that neighborhood watches are in place and may therefore be much more careful not to get caught.

Moreover, police officers may confuse members of watch groups with burglars, which can be quite dangerous for those members. Thus, if you want to set up a neighborhood watch, you may also coordinate your actions with the local police office in order to avoid any misconceptions.

The juice may not be worth the squeeze

While neighborhood watches can make sense in rather unsafe areas, they may not make too much sense in safe regions. In fact, people also often overestimate the true positive effect of neighborhood watches on crime rates.

Therefore, in some cases, the juice is simply not worth the squeeze and people could spend their time in a more efficient and more enjoyable manner instead.

There may be better alternatives available to us

Thanks to our modern technology, neighborhood watches may simply become obsolete in the near future. In fact, we can install cameras at our homes and can also get a dog who can take care of our homes. Hence, we may simply no longer need neighborhood watches in our current state of the world.

Top 10 Neighborhood Watch Pros & Cons – Summary List

Neighborhood Watch ProsNeighborhood Watch Cons
Neighborhood watch groups can improve safetyNeighborhood watch can be dangerous
May lead to social cohesionMany people overestimate their abilities
Can make people feel saferPeople need to be trained
Can increase overall quality of lifeNeighborhood watch can be time-consuming
People may sleep betterJuice may not be worth the squeeze
You can get to know your neighborsNeighborhood watch groups may overreact
May improve confidence of localsLack of authority of neighborhood watch
Neighborhood watch can deter thievesMay do more harm than good
People may get a feeling of controlMay conflict with police operations
Can strengthen feeling of communityThere may be better alternatives

Do We Need Neighborhood Watch?

As we can see from the previous analysis, there are many important advantages and disadvantages of neighborhood watches. In my opinion, neighborhood watches often do more harm than good in the long run and we should use our modern technologies to protect our homes instead.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhood_watch

https://www.nnw.org/

https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/Publications/NSA_NW_Manual.pdf

https://www.ourwatch.org.uk/

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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