What is Block Watch?
Block Watch is a very successful crime prevention program, designed to keep neighbourhoods safer. When municipalities and police form partnerships with their communities and employ the Block Watch program, it reduces residential crime, provides a stronger sense of safety for everyone and helps build stronger and connected communities.
History of Block Watch
The Block Watch Program was started in BC in 1986 in response to the concerns of citizens about crime. The program was modeled on a similar project in Seattle which was effective in reducing residential Break and Enters by up to 60 percent.
In 1993 the Block Watch Society was officially registered as a non-profit society. Since its inception the Block Watch Program of BC has been influential in reducing residential crime and promoting increased feelings of neighborhood security.
Objectives of Block Watch
The main objective of the Block Watch Society of BC is to partner with communities to build safer neighborhoods by encouraging residents to take a proactive approach to crime prevention and safety. Through education on target hardening, property marking and reporting suspicious activity Block Watch provides a means for the community to take responsibility for its own safety by reducing the opportunity for crime.
Block Watch Member programs operate under the mandate of the Block Watch Society who in turn provide:
- Support, training, mentoring and materials to police agencies & community programs
- Coordinate the link of community programs to each other
- Provide ongoing training and sharing of best practices
- Work with police agencies to assist with problem solving, suggesting and supporting strategies for positive change
- Focus on reducing the risk of property crime – particularly residential and auto crimes
Benefits of the Block Watch Program
The active involvement and participation of citizens in a Block Watch program will:
- Increase crime awareness in their neighbourhoods.
- Improve knowledge of security measures to better protect their home and property.
- Encourage reporting of suspicious behaviour and activity.
- Reduce incidents of crime through education
- Receive training to know how to identify suspects in crime mode and suspicious behaviour and report it more effectively
- Allow direct access to an experienced crime prevention advocate
- Increase trained volunteers to be the eyes and ears for the community and the police.
- Create opportunities to improve community connections.
- Discount offered on home insurance premium through some carriers.
Program Information and how it works
Block Watch Programs in British Columbia are under the governance of the Block Watch Society of British Columbia, an organization that provides direction, training and materials to each member in the program.
The majority of Block Watch programs operating across the Province are partnered with municipalities and police organizations. The Society has the sole licence for the Program in BC.
The Program involves creating groups/blocks of residents who look out for each other and their neighbour’s home and property as if it was their own. The program encourages members of the community to get to know their neighbours and in doing so creating a sense of community, increasing their level of vigilance and willingness to cooperate as a crime prevention group to prevent and report crime and suspicious behaviour to the police.
Block Watch has always been about building safe communities through the efforts and participation of the community members themselves. Its purpose is looking out for one another and working with the police to reduce crime. This program was one of the first, along with Citizens On Patrol, to utilize significant numbers of volunteers from the community to assist police in crime reduction. This leads to a healthy and safe community.
The Program involves:
- Engaging with community members to encourage residential neighbours to organize together for the purpose of addressing a crime or community problem in their neighbourhood through increased communication, surveillance, ownership, and guardianship of the neighbourhood.
- Training to participants on residential crime prevention techniques and effective reporting;
- Establishing a channel of communication between participants and the police for the sharing of information about crime in the community, passing on crime prevention techniques, and encouraging the effective reporting of criminal and suspicious behaviour;
- Providing standardized signage for residences or neighbourhoods to indicate to potential offenders that the neighbourhood is committed to vigilant surveillance; and
- Incorporating other crime prevention activities in addition to the crime prevention group.
Block Watch programs are often combined with other crime prevention activities. These can include property security assessments (CPTED), target hardening techniques, property identification ideas, and suspect identification. Coordinators use the skills and principles of crime prevention though environmental design (CPTED), as well as crime prevention though social development and other problem solving models and crime reduction strategies in educating the participants of the Program.
Block Watch in BC relies on Coordinators and Block Captains to function. The coordinator runs the program, often from within community safety offices. They build awareness for the program; recruit new captains; train crime prevention groups on how to prevent crime and report crime or suspicious activity; keep the information of the enlisted blocks, captains, and participants; disseminate information and newsletters; and act as a conduit for the information from block watch programs to the police. The block captains and additional co-captains are responsible for the recruitment of participants and are intended to be a point person between the block participants and the coordinator.
In British Columbia, the majority of Block Watch programs are established in a similar way:
- Recruit captains
- Captains canvas the neighbourhood for participants
- Captains recruit participants and establish the block
- Coordinators train the participants
- Captains hand in their block map, and list of participants
- Block Watch signs are installed around the neighbourhood
Specific services of the Society include:
- Our office administration is provided by contract with Kathie Swift. The best way to make contact with the office is via Email – firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can also reach her at 1-877-602-3358.
- Our website is active and consulted frequently by the The Members Only Section provides Minutes, downloadable presentations & lesson plans, Manuals, resource catalogue and downloadable order forms. We publish success stories and bulletins on our website and we encourage members to share them all with our office at: email@example.com
- The newsletter continues to be published on the website and sent quarterly to all Members to assist them with maintaining contact with their community Block Watch members and others on a regular
- We are constantly re-evaluating our material and determining the needs of various communities. If Member Communities have a need for language translations, special promotional material, thank you gifts, volunteer appreciation items, the Society can at least subsidize the costs if items can’t be supplied free of charge.
- Possibly the most valuable resource we have is the success of others shared through “best practices”. If someone has a great solution or a difficult problem, it is shared it with the others, either at a meeting or by email. We include it in the minutes or do a circulated bulletin to all members to look for an answer or share an alert.