by Lincoln Eiley

As the captain of the Corozal Central Neighbourhood Watch Group here are some TIPS that may help my fellow islanders on Ambergris Caye, struggling with the current crime wave:- Our Caption is pretty much says it all. "GET INVOLVED"

How to Start a Neighborhood Watch Group!

When you get right down to it, starting a neighborhood watch isnít terribly difficult. Letís start at the basics. If you ask your neighbor to keep an eye out on your house for a couple of hours while youíre away and you do the same in return youíve effectively started a Neighborhood Watch. It really is that easy!

What is a Neighborhood Watch?

Essentially, itís an organized group of neighborhood residents who watch out for criminal and suspicious behavior and report it to local law enforcement to help prevent crime and promote understanding, cooperation, and sharing between neighbors and between neighbors and police.

Community Problem Addressed!

Every day, neighborhoods across Belize may confront any number of property, violent crimes, and threats of crime. Developing a Neighborhood Watch helps to provide your neighbors and local law enforcement with additional eyes and ears to watch out for all types of criminal activity and promote neighborhood security. Neighborhood crime watches can address all types of crime, but their primary focus is typically residential burglary and other crimes around the home, such as larceny and vandalism. The presence of a Neighborhood Watch can also help deter criminals who would attempt to conduct drug- or gang-related activities in your neighborhood.

Key Components:-

The first step is to identify key leaders or persons most concerned about crime in the neighborhood and organize a meeting of these individuals to discuss safety. If you are thinking of starting a Neighborhood Watch group, YOU are one of those leaders! The police can be invited to a neighborhood meeting to discuss community safety, and volunteers can be solicited to serve as Neighborhood Watch leaders and members.

A communication network can be organized to pass along information about crime and security to residents.

The police may provide training on recognizing and reporting suspicious activity and on home and neighborhood security. The watch may expand to foot or car patrols.

The Neighborhood Watch Group can provide a variety of safety and security information to residents.

Key Partnerships:-

Local police and residents form the crucial partnership in a Neighborhood Watch Group. Local media (TV, Radio, Newspapers) can help Neighborhood Watch groups by publicizing recruitment drives and successes in crime prevention through citizen involvement. Involving seniors and youth will also make the program more comprehensive.

Potential Obstacles:-

Apathy, civic disengagement, and fear are among the most common obstacles to forming a Neighborhood Watch. Education can overcome such obstacles. The potential for displacing crime to other neighborhoods is a concern for law enforcement; they seek to involve as many neighborhoods as possible to offset the potential for displacement. Also, volunteer momentum can wane if the program is narrowly focused and does not allow for a variety of roles that use residents' talents and respect their varying degrees of comfort with visible involvement in the Neighborhood Watch program.

Engagement:-

All neighborhoods have a common desire for peaceful communities that can be expressed in many ways. Consider cookouts and crime prevention fairs. When your Neighborhood Watch group gets together for meetings, end the meeting by sharing food and talking about other subjects not related to crime. Have a community activity day such as cleaning a local park, inviting local children for a game of football, or spending a few hours at your local Help Aged house reading to the members.

When you get down to the bottom line, a Neighborhood Watch Group helps to provide for a sense of community where neighbors meet and engage with neighbors. Crime prevention and deterrence is only a part, albeit important part, of neighbors helping neighbors. Get involved!