Community policing differs from traditional policing in that the neighbors in the community watch for suspicious behavior on a constant basis, unlike the occasional drive by from a squad car. The neighborhood watch empowers the community to watch out for itself, and each member…
Community policing does offer an opportunity to improve traditional policing. Police departments are also suffering from cuts in their budgets during the down economy (France, 2009), stretching their resources even thinner than before. Essentially, watch groups put more eyes and ears on the streets. Because community policing is controlled by the citizens, reports of crimes come from the perspective of the residents in the neighborhood and reflect what they view as crime. Such things as mischief and trespassing are sometimes treated with less priority by overloaded police departments, but if residents step up these smaller crimes tend to decline. Watch group participants are not supposed to intervene in crimes and confront criminals; they are supposed to call the police about suspicious activities which they observe.
The USA on Watch website (2007) states that the first Neighborhood Watch was formed in North Las Vegas in 1993. Since then, more than 8,000 residents have volunteered to participate in the Neighborhood Watch program, and there are more than 360 official captains. Nicole Dennis, a Crime Prevention Specialist, was the police department coordinator in 2007. She commented, “What we’ve tried to do over the last several years is modernize the program and empower residents to take a stand for their communities” (para. 3). She also commented on a misperception that people sometimes have of Neighborhood Watch groups: that they are “nosy neighbors” (para. 4). Through training and education of all the residents, they understand that watch groups are not there to keep on eye on them, but rather to watch out for them.
Interviews with two community members revealed that community policing is more important than it may have been in the past. With changes in the economy, people have been moving in and out of neighborhoods, making it more difficult for long-time residents to watch their own neighborhoods. One of the interviewees commented, ...
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