Neighborhood Watch Research Study

Neighborhood Watch Research Study

This research paper is designed as a study and has been prepared at the request of the mayor to determine if the neighborhood watch program that has been implemented in a small suburb of a large metropolitan area has had any effect on the complaints received about suspicious behavior, deviant behavior and crime from within this area. It will explain, in detail, why the selected design was chosen. It will also explain how criminological theories support neighborhood watch programs. Hypotheses will be used to describe, in specific terms, what will happen in this study and what the operational concepts are.

The development of Neighborhood watch programs can be a favorable approach for reducing crime and protecting citizens from becoming victims. Formed in 1972 by the National Sheriff’s Association, it has grown into a formidable opponent against neighborhood intruders and has become an official set of eyes in community efforts to prevent break-ins, car theft, and many other crimes that target citizen’s ( Many suburban areas are often targeted by criminals in part because people tend to be more relaxed about the incidence of crime.

The program design was wrapped around educating citizens on how to protect themselves and their neighbors from crime and vandalism (” Additionally, the program was developed at the request of sheriffs and police chiefs seeking a crime prevention program in response to the growing number of burglaries in rural and suburban residential areas. The mayor of the city represented in this report has asked for a report on the effectiveness of the program in areas where his constituents reside. An investigation in to Neighborhood Watch programs effectiveness reveals some facts.
Historically, Neighborhood Watch programs have had a mixed effect on crime prevention and reduction, depending on which of many studies on the subject you read. One of the earliest evaluations, conducted in Seattle in 1977, found that a Neighborhood Watch program “significantly reduces the risk of residential burglary (”

The program developed a plan that in essence would be designed to prevent the occurrence of crime and reduce the probability of it happening by implementing one that target suspicious behavior, deviant behavior and incidents of crime. Complaints reported by neighbors can be a good measurement of how effective a neighborhood program can be. Arguably, neighbors who band together to fight crime in their backyards can be a powerful tool towards combating it. Support from law enforcement and the mayor’s office gives the program the additional resources it needs to be successful. According to the National Institute of Justice, “putting the routine activities approach and situational crime prevention into a geographic context involves asking how each element is distributed in geographic space (May, 2007).” Employing knowledge from studies that measure where crime occurs arms neighborhoods with information that can make the effort more effective (May, 2007). Although some may argue Neighborhood Watch programs are not very effective, there is evidence that some communities have benefited from its inception.

Reporting suspicious behavior can be a successful tool in reducing crime in neighborhoods as well as deviant behavior. Additionally, taking control of one’s neighborhoods and not tolerating deviant behavior from youths who create gangs can help in the effectiveness of reducing crime in neighborhoods. For example, a study reported by Frank Schmalleger, notes, “The National Gang Center estimated that 32.4% of all cities, suburban areas, towns, and rural counties in the United States experienced gang problems in 2008. (2012).” Additionally, amongst agencies reporting a gang problem in 2008, 45% characterized their gang problem as “getting worse.” In contrast, less than 1 in 10 respondents said their gang problem was “getting better, while suburban area reported that the gang activity was increasing or getting worse” (2012).

The reduction of crime in suburban area neighborhoods can only be successful if the larger problem is addressed by local law enforcement and programs are in place to aid communities who decide it just is not worth their while to get involved. As statistics surrounding crime reduction proves, Neighborhood Watch programs are vulnerable and limited in their efforts to effectively reduce crime. Citizen’s reporting suspicious and/or deviant behavior does not always yield the results they had hoped for in making their neighborhoods safer.

For the most part, one can argue differences in rates can be contributed to at least three components. These components include economic indicators, social status and the criminal element which is a direct result of social learning. One can almost expect a higher criminal element in heavily populated areas. Criminals target communities where they believe there is more vulnerability of citizens. They continue to become more cunning and creative in their efforts and crime either stays the same or increases significantly.

Criminological Theories
According to the United States Department of Justice (n.d.), Neighborhood Watch programs are effective in the reduction of crime in many communities. The definition of a neighborhood watch is broken down into different categories. These categories consist of the following: Neighborhood Watch, property-marking and home security surveys.

These programs are implanted by either the public or the police. Usually, there is a block captain or main community watch person who is the liaison to the local police department. This captain will also coordinate monthly meetings with the other members of the community watch, along with the local police department to discuss different strategies or progress with the watch program chosen. The constant contact with the local police department will allow for communications regarding criminal activity status within the community.

One of the criminological theories is the informal social control, which effects the community by considering what the acceptable norms of behavior are expected from the local residents (U.S. D.O.J.(n.d.), . Other criminological theories that support Neighborhood Watch programs include a theory by Shaw & McKay, Sampson, Bursik & Grasmick (Cullen & Agnew, 2002), which is social disorganization. It occurs when communities informal social controls break down. When a community is disorganized, the community lacks the efficiency to keep social order; hence, crime increases.

Informal social control can affect a growing community. If the community does defy what is considered acceptable behavior, problems may exist. These problems include the increase in criminal activity. The reasons for the increase in criminal activity are caused by a plethora of theories.; however, a neighborhood watch can help keep these crime rates down. If individuals take control of their own communities and cooperate with the local law enforcement agencies, the communities have a fighting chance to keep his or her community safe. Setting the social norms of a community has many relating factors; however, the social norms of a community are displayed by the organization of a community. Informal social control allows for the setting of the social norms; anything outside of the social norms can be reported. Neighborhood watch allows for social order, as well as help, to the local law enforcement agencies to keep communities safe.

A Neighborhood Watch program that could be implemented that can cause less deviant behavior, less complaints about suspicious behavior, and less crime is community watch patrol. This program will include individuals who watch the neighborhood for suspicious behavior, anything outside of the norm that is happening. It will involve heavy participation, in which members of the community will volunteer and assign times to patrol the neighborhood on different nights of the week. In the event a volunteer notices any suspicious behavior, they will then contact the local police department. The program will also have monthly meetings that will give advice on how to handle certain situations and never take any criminal situation into their own hands. Also, the meeting will allow for the community to see the progress of the program and the areas that need to be worked on. While on patrol, volunteers would be trained to watch areas or buildings that are places where crimes are committed. An example might be that of an abandoned building. The mayor’s office should be a part of the program, which helps the upkeep of the community. Many times, there are buildings and houses that are left abandoned, which causes easy access for drug houses, places were bodies could be left, teenage trafficking, and so on. This goes beyond buildings and houses, but also includes things like spray painted street signs, grass two feet tall, allowing teenagers to hang out free during all hours of the night. All of these are areas where community watch programs, along with the mayor’s office, would work together to try and decrease of deviant behavior and crimes in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Watch programs have become very popular and is an accepted form of criminal activity deterrent in communities. There are several different reasons for having these programs as well as the positive effects that these programs have on communities and the residents that reside in them. Neighborhood Watch programs incorporate strong community involvement and allows its residents to take a certain level of control when it comes to criminal activity. They have the opportunity to come together in a social setting and come up with ideas as a community on how to stop crime. This may include forming a budget to install electronic security in the neighborhood, residential patrol volunteers and many other tactics that are available for the community to participate in. Community participation is the key to maintaining a low level of criminal activity within their community in order for it to be socially organized instead of it being a socially disorganized community, where everyone wants a safe community. Implementing these programs will not completely stop crime, but it will ensure more safety for the community. According to statistics gathered by the Neighborhood Watch
Program, “its biggest success has been a reduction in burglaries. When a burglar sees signs posted throughout the neighborhood, he is less likely to rob someone's home” (

Cullen & Agnew (2002). Criminological Theory: Past to Present (Essential Readings), Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Criminological Theory Summaries, as retrieved on November 19, 2011 at

Holloway, K.,Bennett, T., and Farrington, D. (n.d.) United States Department of Justice of Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Crime Prevention Research Review, Does Neighborhood Watch Reduce Crime?, as retrieved on November 19, 2011 at

Neighborhood Watch Programs, as retrieved on November 19, 2011 at

Neighborhood Watch Programs, as retrieved on November 19, 2011 at

National Institute of Justice, “Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS),” as retrieved on November 19, 2011 at (accessed May 28, 2007); and Keith Harries Schmalleger, F. (2012). Criminology Today: An Integrative Introduction (6th ed.), Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall