There was a time in America when we knew all of our neighbors. Sadly, times have changed and our lives have become busier. Life has also become a good deal more dangerous, and we are continually seeking ways to counter threats. As I've said before, awareness of what's going on around us is a key to having a good defensive plan. We use our senses—our eyes and ears—to be alert for trouble while there is still time to deal with it effectively. Multiplying the number of eyes and ears that are alert for danger simply makes good sense. That is why a neighborhood watch program makes good sense.
One group I am familiar with lives in the hills, less than an hour's drive north of San Francisco. They stay in touch by phone, e-mail and texting. Over the years, they have kept each other informed about crime in their area as well as the threat from wildfire, whose dog is missing and reports of mountain lions in the neighborhood.
Now, no one wants to voluntarily set themselves up for more meetings, but a neighborhood watch group doesn't have to include a lot of meetings once the initial plan is in place. Most police chiefs and sheriffs will be glad to help a group organize, but that is not really necessary. A neighborhood can get together and simply decide what their needs are and make a plan to meet those needs. Keeping in touch via electronic media will minimize the need for those pesky meetings.
Besides keeping up with strangers wandering around the neighborhood, the group might want to identify neighbors who have health issues and special needs. In addition, a group can keep tabs on who is on vacation and check each other's houses on a regular basis. And the group can keep alert for unusual happenings in the area.
Of course, the obvious thing to avoid is trying to become an amateur police agency. It is much smarter to be the eyes and ears of the police and let them do their job. Letting the local patrolmen know about the neighborhood watch group ahead of time will also enhance the effectiveness of such a program. An effective neighborhood watch group can increase the defense against home invasions, thefts and a whole bunch of other serious crimes.
So, take the time to go next door and meet your neighbors. All it usually takes is one person who is concerned enough to make the effort. Neighborhood awareness makes the whole area a tougher target for the criminal and a safer place for your family.