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Published: Jun 25, 2024 5 min read

A good neighbor is worth their weight in gold. Need a trustworthy person to water your plants when you’re on vacation? Or an extra hand to shovel your front stoop after a heavy snow? Chances are, the right person for the job is just a few doors down.

Cultivating good relationships with your neighbors also helps create a sense of security in your community. Whether you’re dealing with package theft, car break-ins or just want to feel more comfortable going for a walk at night, looking out for your neighbors — and knowing they’re doing the same for you — can make a world of difference. Block clubs and neighborhood watch groups, which bring together communities who want to keep their areas safe from crime and improve their overall quality of life, take this mission a step further.

Here are five steps to starting one of your own.

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1. Get your neighbors on board

First, talk to your neighbors about why you want to start a community group, and why they should be motivated to join.

“Start knocking on doors,” says Paul DelPonte executive director of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

Hold a launch meeting at a local gathering place like the library, and post flyers around your neighborhood to get the word out. At that meeting, give everyone who shows up the opportunity to talk about why they’re interested in joining the group, and how much time they can commit to it.

With block clubs especially, it doesn’t have to be all business. These volunteer-based groups organize block parties, community gardens, grade school “bike buses” and much more.

In Detroit, some block clubs are snagging grants of up to $15,000 to beautify their spaces with fruit trees, benches and art installations.

2. Meet with local law enforcement

Next, reach out to reps from your local police department to see what resources they have to offer.

This relationship varies from community to community, but in most places, law enforcement officials can provide training, information and other useful resources for newly formed community groups, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Be sure, however, to make some of your meetings law enforcement-free. Studies have shown that the relationship between neighborhood watch groups and local police is often based on the notion that what is “different” is inherently suspicious. As Rebecca Edwards, in-house expert for SafeWise.com wrote in a recent blog post, “Check your biases. Everybody deserves to be safe, and that means being safe from discrimination too.”

3. Develop a plan

Identify the top concerns of your new group and talk about how you can address them together.

If property theft is a concern, for example, consider appointing a point person neighbors can reach out to when they’re leaving for vacation, and ask them to keep an eye on their home while they’re away.

“Keep your expectations in check,” DelPonte says. “Give people workable amounts to do, since you don’t want to tax any one member of the group. You want to be in it for the long haul.”

4. Keep in contact

Your group can (and should) meet in person regularly, but there are ample ways to communicate without having to leave your home. Social media platforms like Nextdoor and Facebook Groups are an easy way for neighbors to get on the same page about what’s happening on their block, whether it’s an abandoned building kids should stay away from or a runaway pet. Use these platforms to your advantage.

5. Stay active

Now that you’ve got a bona fide group, put it to good use.

The NCPC has lots of ideas for putting your new group to good use, like inviting speakers on topics of interest to speak at scheduled meetings, starting a neighborhood newsletter and more.

Make your presence known. You’ve probably seen signs outside of people’s homes warning intruders to beware of a dog or informing them that the house is protected by a home security system. Putting up “neighborhood watch” signs in public spaces has the same effect.

“Knowing you have one in existence is an automatic deterrent for criminals,” DelPonte says.

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