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10 Steps to start a Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood watches around South Africa take different forms and functions. These are largely dependent on the community itself and what they wish to achieve and how active they can afford to be in the area. 


The commonly found types of NHW are:

Eyes & Ears: This a co-operative system where residents take a decision to be more observant, more aware of their neighbors and of course to report any suspicious activity to SAPS and their watch commander. 

Patrolling NHW: Comprising of a patroller section as well as regular members, patrollers walk or drive the streets of the area to maintain visibility and to report suspicious activities. These are quite common in South Africa. The ration between patrollers and non-patrollers is normally around 20/80

Plot Watch: Plot Watch and Farm Watches can be much more sophisticated than residential projects with response teams, radio links and of course regular patrols. Given the high exposure to violent crime in farming districts these are generally well supported and very active. Regular information sharing and liaison with SAPS is critical. 


Depending on the geography of your area and what the support level is from your community, the basics to starting a NHW are as such;

  1. Call an expression of interest meeting in your area. It can be as small as 10 people, just to get things started. Explain what you foresee the NHW doing and the time commitment required. 
  2. Establish your opening office bearers, these would be: Chairman, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership (possibly a patrol co-ordinator as well). These remain in these posts until your first formal community meeting where they step down and an election takes place to formally elect everyone into posts for the year ahead. 
  3. Write up your NHW constitution. If you don't have a sample of one, ask your nearest NHW or call the Department Of Community Safety in your area and ask for a copy. 
  4. Set a date for your first public meeting.
  5. Send invites to everyone in the area you intend to cover, send them to schools for the kids to give to their parents. Hand them out at traffic lights in the area, go door to door - this is your big push to get people to attend and bring their friends. The more people at your inaugural meeting the better.
  6. Invite a representative from local SAPS to attend the meeting to show their support for the project
  7. At the meeting, explain what the NHW will do, which area it will cover and what will be expected of people participating. Be open to discussion around ideas and input
  8. At the meeting, call for a quick election to formalise the appointment of office bearers. 
  9. With the minutes of your inaugural meeting and your constitution in hand, you should be able to open a bank account with dual signatories for transparency. There's always signage that has to be paid for, printing costs etc. so bank account is a pretty necessary thing to have.  
  10. Finally, register your NHW with the Department of Community Safety and local Police Station. (You will need to be registered with DCS if you require funding and support from them at any stage)

These would in a nutshell be the ten steps to starting your own Neighborhood Watch.