West Seneca Police Department

Neighborhood Watch

Program Contact:
Patrol Leutenant David Szmania
716-674-2280

Neighborhood watch is one of the most effective and least costly ways to prevent crime and reduce fear. Neighborhood watch fights the isolation that crime both creates and feeds upon. It forges bonds among area residents and its success is hinged on improving communications between neighbors and achieving and sustaining an appropriate level of neighborhood involvement to a point where the neighbors achieve the prevention of burglaries and other property crimes.

Any community resident can join: young and old, single and married, renter and homeowner. A few concerned residents, a community organization, or a law enforcement agency can spearhead the efforts to organize a watch. Members may learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighborhood, and report activities that raise their suspicions to their local police agency.

You can form a watch group around any geographical unit: a block, apartment, park, business area, public housing complex, and offices. Watch groups are not vigilantes: they are extra eyes and ears for reporting crime and helping neighbors. Neighborhood watch helps build pride and serves as a springboard for efforts that address community concerns.

Why neighborhood watch?

It works. Throughout the country, dramatic decreases in burglary and related offenses are reported by law enforcement professionals in communities with active watch programs. Today’s transient society produces communities that are less personal. Many families have two working parents and children involved in many activities that keep them away from home. An empty house in a neighborhood where none of the neighbors know the owner is a primary target for burglary.

Neighborhood watch also helps build pride and serves as a springboard for efforts that address other community concerns such as recreation for youth, child care, and affordable housing.

How does a neighborhood watch start?

A motivated individual, a few concerned residents, a community organization, or a law enforcement agency can spearhead the efforts to establish a watch. Together they can:

  • Organize a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, and the possible community problems.
  • Contact the local police or sheriff’s department, or local crime prevention organization, for help in training members in home security and reporting skills and for information on local crime patterns.
  • Hold an initial meeting to gauge neighbors’ interest; establish the purpose of the program; and begin to identify issues that need to be addressed.
  • Select a coordinator.
  • Ask for block captain volunteers who are responsible for relaying information to the members.
  • Recruit members, keeping up-to-date information on new residents and making special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people.
  • Work with local government or law enforcement to put up neighborhood watch signs, usually after at least 50 percent of all households are enrolled.

Who can be involved?

Any community resident can join — young and old, single and married, renter and homeowner. Even the busiest of people can belong to a neighborhood watch. They too can keep an eye out for neighbors as they come and go.

I live in an apartment building. Can I start a neighborhood watch?

Yes. Watch groups can be formed around any geographical unit: a block, apartment building, townhouse complex, park, business area, public housing complex, office building, or marina.

What does a neighborhood watch do?

A neighborhood watch is neighbors helping neighbors. They are extra eyes and ears for reporting crime and helping neighbors. Members meet their neighbors, learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighborhood, and report activity that raises their suspicions to the police or sheriff’s office.

What are the major components of a watch program?

  • Community meetings. These should be set up on a regular basis such as bi-monthly, monthly, or six times a year.
  • Citizens’ patrol. A citizens’ patrol is made up of volunteers who walk or drive through the community and alert police to crime and questionable activities. Not all neighborhood watches need a citizens’ patrol.
  • Communications. This can be a simple as a weekly flier posted on community announcement boards, to a newsletter that updates neighbors on the progress of the program, to a neighborhood electronic bulletin board.
  • Special events. These are crucial to keep the program going and growing. Host talks or seminars that focus on current issues such as hate or bias-motivated violence, crime in schools, teenage alcohol and other drug abuse or domestic violence. Adopt a park or school playground and paint over graffiti. Sponsor a block party, holiday dinner, or volleyball or softball game that will provide neighbors a chance to get to know each other.
  • Other aspects of community safety. For instance, start a block parent program to help children in emergency situations.

What are my responsibilities as a watch member?

  • Be alert!
  • Know your neighbors and watch out for each other.
  • Report suspicious activities and crimes to the police or sheriff’s office.
  • Learn how you can make yourself and your community safer.

What kinds of activities should I look out for as a watch member?

  • Someone screaming or shouting for help.
  • Someone looking in windows of houses and parked cars.
  • Property being taken out of houses where no one is at home or from closed businesses.
  • Cars, van, or trucks moving slowly with no apparent destination or without lights.
  • A stranger sitting in a car or stopping to talk to a child.

Report these incidents to the police or sheriff’s department. Talk about concerns and problems with your neighbors.

How should I report these incidents?

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Give your name and address.
  • Explain what happened.
  • Briefly describe the suspect: sex and race, age, height, weight, hair color, clothing, distinctive characteristics such as a beard, mustache, scars, or accent.
  • Describe the vehicle if one was involved: color; make, model, year, license plate, and special features such as stickers.

This program is designed to provide a particular neighborhood with problem-solving information through one-on-one contact with a police representative.

Copyright © 2020 West Seneca Police Department. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2020 West Seneca Police Department. All rights reserved.