Neighborhood Watch: A First-Line Defense Against Home Invasion.

Filed under: The Other Home Invasion | reports that a brutal home invasion in Gautier, Mississippi, is prompting city leaders to think about rebooting their Neighborhood Watch Program.

Tommy Fortenberry, who was Gautier’s crime prevention officer before being elected Mayor, says “If you have a strong Neighborhood Watch program in your community, that sends [criminals] elsewhere.”

Neighborhood Watch is a community crime prevention program launched by the National Sheriffs’ Association in 1972. Neighborhood Watch encourages citizens to look out for each other, work on neighborhood problems, and make themselves safer.

The only study Home Invasion News could locate does confirm a relationship between Neighborhood Watch programs and reduced crime, but the data is flawed and the reasons aren’t so clear.

The data appears in a U.S. Department of Justice Crime Prevention Research Review Study title “Does Neighborhood Watch Reduce Crime?” (April 2008). This study, quoted from and oft repeated in myriad variations, is the only original research study Home Invasion News could find that attempted to statistically examine the cause and effect of Neighborhood Watch and crime.

An Abstract from the report appearing in the Journal of Experimental Criminology says, “The main findings of the narrative review were that about half of the schemes evaluated showed that neighborhood watch was effective in reducing crime, with most of the other evaluations having uncertain effects. The main findings of the meta-analysis were that 15 of the 18 studies provided evidence that neighborhood watch reduced crime. While the results of the review are encouraging, it was concluded that more high-quality research needs to be done to help explain why study variations exist.”

In July 2008, the National Crime Prevention Council published Does Neighborhood Watch Reduce Crime?

Drawing from the DOJ Crime Prevention study, this report concluded that:
• Neighborhood Watch is associated with a relative reduction in crime of about 16 percent, considered a ‘small favorable effect.’”
• Thirty-six studies in the report met the criteria for narrative review. Of those, 18 qualified for the more stringent “meta-analysis.”
• Overall, 19 (53 percent) of the 36 studies demonstrated positive effects of Neighborhood Watch, defined as a reduction in crime of nine percent or more.
• Among the 18 studies included in the meta-analysis, 14 (78 percent) demonstrated positive effects of Neighborhood Watch.

The National Sheriffs’ Association remains bullish on Neighborhood Watch, writing in their June 2011 newsletter that now is a more important time than ever to establish or reinvigorate Neighborhood Watch programs.

For detailed information on starting a Neighborhood Watch program in your area, start with this excellent primerfrom the San Diego, CA, police department.

Despite the lack of definitive statistical evidence that Neighborhood Watch reduces crime, Home Invasion News feels safe in saying that neighbors watching out for neighbors is easy commonsense.

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