Neighbourhood watch research study
Aim of study: Lethbridge, a small suburb has implemented a small neighborhood watch program.The study aims at examining the impact of the program on volumes of complaints about victimization, fear of crime, and deviant behavior or unsociable acts such as graffiti or disorderly behavior that cause annoyance in the local neighborhood
Scope of Research study: The research study on Neighborhood watch will proceed along the following steps.
Prompt attention to problems of the study.
Personal contact with community leaders and police executives involved in study
Data collection by survey, observation, inspection and examination
Informal interviews with local residents
Drafting questionnaire and schedules
Pre-testing questionnaires and schedules
Examination of results of pre-tests to detect and eliminate inconsistencies
Drafting revised final questionnaires
Outlining field interviews
Analyzing collected data
Drafting of final report
Source of research design: This research design has been inspired by the Design used by Samuel Stouffer in his studies of the American Soldier.It is a routine design, which is at once practical for applied research as well as rigorous to scientific prescription.
Progress of research-
The problem under research was identified- whether the Neighborhood watch program has led to a decline in complaints of victimization and fear of crime, unsocial acts and suspicious behavior that may cause annoyance or alarm to the local residents.
A systematic analysis of the problems involved study of crime figures and public perceptions of the sense of security before and after commencement of the program, evaluating the extent and application of community mobilization and sensitization, checking of documentation relating to actual implementation, assessment of the quality of collaboration among local residents and the integration of the beat police into the program.
Neighborhood watch being one of the acknowledged strategies in community policing, the study would also consider if crime prevention and other objectives of the program could have been better achieved if neighborhood watch was combined with other strategies commonly adopted in the community policing paradigm.
To make the study academically meaningful and empirically sound, community leaders and beat officers were interviewed to elicit important information like public perception of the sense of security in the local neighborhood and to collect figures of reported crime as well as victimization before and after program, extent of community participation, nature of crime prevention strategies such as target hardening by means of physical measures as well as by community mobilization to promote social cohesion, the employment of other location specific tactics if any etc
Collection of Data on the fear of crime including a) complaints on crime, suspicious activities reported, deviant behavior b) Any Increase/decrease in complaints over a period d) No of people enrolled neighborhood watch scheme e) Partnerships with other resident associations
Informal interview with people concerned- Interview with citizens will unfold information on the motivation, efficacy and success of the Neighborhood watch program. Particular emphasis on whether collaborative efforts to promote safety in the neighborhood has lead also to a sense of ownership of the neighborhood by all individual residents and the creation of a community of interests despite the heterogeneous nature of the community. Also how community mobilization and cooperative crime prevention efforts promote social cohesion, which in turn brings about understanding local problems that ultimately lead to crime.
A Questionnaire and Schedule can be designed and distributed in each target home. It will contain questions on fear of crime, the level of security enjoyed by them, on their awareness of psychological or other criminogenic factors that contribute to crime, deviance or antisocial tendencies among the young, shared values on the objectives and methodology of community crime prevention, perceptions on problems that confront the Neighboutrhood Watch program, any areas that need reform and community evaluation of the success of the program
A pre-testing drive of questionnaires and schedules can be undertaken.
The results of the Pretest can be examined and scrutinized to check for inconsistencies or errors.
A thoroughly revised and final questionnaire can be devised and distributed.
Results of field interviews may be outlined.
Collected Data maybe analyzed.
A final report is presented. The results should indicate positive impact of Neighborhood watch programs on reducing crime and the fear of crime in this area.
Theoretical background of the Study:
a) Effective crime prevention is achieved not by policing alone, but through the cooperative effort of the community based on a mature understanding of the causative factors of crime. The community in this context is the local neighborhood that has a commonality of interests in prevention of crime and in enhancing the sense of security of all local residents. If the community is properly mobilized and educated, it can evolve joint and collaborative strategies that can break the crime triangle- the victim, the offender and the location- at a suitable point. Neighborhood watch is one such strategy.
b) The Study assumes that the best way to enlist Community collaboration in reducing crime is through two means-1) Physical Means- This is called as Target Hardening in which each home is assessed for its vulnerability to victimization and measures are designed to deter the offender from gaining easy access to the potential victim.
This can be most effectively attempted at the stage of planning construction and if this has not been possible, then through suitable modification of existing structure. Target hardening can be more effective if, in addition to physical restructuring, the immediate neighbors undertake to keep a watch on the potential victim’s premises and access points in order to detect and report any suspicious activity to the police promptly.
c) The Study further proceeds on the less obvious assumption hat that target hardening through physical measures can be most effectively supplemented by eliminating alienation and anonymity in the local neighborhood by means of community mobilization and social cohesion.
This is because when local residents come together in a spirit of fraternity and mutual support, they are able to see more clearly criminogenic factors, whether on account of deviation or neighborhood decline and disorder. It is then possible to identify local problems of petty annoyance or disorderly behavior that when neglected ultimately lead to crime and to devise effective strategies to find suitable solutions through a process of constant consultation and consensus.
d) The Study also assumes that today the idea gaining currency is that prevention of crime-especially crime involving neighborhoods is a responsibility that must be shared by the Police as well as the citizens in a spirit of partnership. The police has traditionally promoted the idea that they are exclusively responsible for crime control and that the community has no role whatever in the matter. The community on its part seldom understands or appreciates that factors that cause crime such as poverty or psychological aberration is beyond the capacity of the police to control.
As a result crime prevention strategies in the past placed too much reliance on the police agency as crime fighters. Sociological research and field experiments conducted in the USA during the 1970s clearly brought out the fact that an increase in police presence hardly ever led to a decline in crime; stringent enforcement at best led to displacement.
On the other hand, foot patrol, which brought the police and the community closer, did in fact have a positive impact in reducing crime and the fear of crime in the community. Neighborhood watch as an effective crime prevention strategy evolved from the important realization that the police alone cannot solve the problems of crime and disorder and that the community is the best resource for controlling crime.
The community policing philosophy that has changed the profile of policing in many democratic countries has emerged from this realization of the role of community participation in policing efforts and its partnership with the police in identifying local problems that lead to crime and in devising effective solutions for local problems.
e) The Study also takes note of the fact that field experiments conducted in many States and cities in the USA demonstrate that not only police effectiveness in controlling crime is enhanced by community policing strategies such as neighborhood watch, they also help the police to earn legitimacy from the community, that is qualitatively different from legitimacy accorded by law alone. The police also therefore stand to gain such strategies of crime prevention undertaken in partnership with the community.
Findings and recommendations: For crime control society has traditionally relied on formal police organizations and their time-honored practices of deterrence such as random patrol, fast response, strong armed enforcement represented by terms such as zero tolerance and investigation and prosecution of offenders. But police ineffectiveness and police inadequacy in dealing with crime have been sufficiently well documented.
Community policing that has replaced the traditional enforcement style of policing is based on the assumption that the police need to develop positive relations with the community, involve the community in the quest for crime control and crime prevention and further pool their resources with those of the community to address the most pressing concerns of its members. The police strategy is adapted to fit the needs of particular neighborhoods and neighborhood watch happens to be one that suits most communities, once they have been properly mobilized and educated.
The Study has been based on the assumptions of the community policing paradigm and has relied upon the responses of members of the community which is the local neighborhood in this case and empirical data collected through official police sources to develop a reliable understanding of the impact of neighborhood watch on important concerns of the community such as crime and the fear of crime and victimization, neighborhood decline and disorder and the lack of social cohesion that results from a fear of crime and distrust of others.
Though the program alone will not be capable of eliminating crime and disorder entirely by itself, the Study amply demonstrates that in combination with other strategies of community policing it can go a long way in reducing crime and the fear of crime and additionally bring about greater social cohesion.
The Study however shows that there are certain minimum conditions for mobilizing a local neighborhood for effective participation and collaboration in crime prevention work. First of all, people must understand the need to cooperate is vital from the point of common security. People must also come to believe that there are solutions to the problems of insecurity that they confront each day and solutions must be such that they can comprehend. People must also be able to develop faith in the efficacy of the new method.
These are conditions that are not easy to fulfill, but if the proper police leadership takes up the challenge of mobilizing and educating the community, it should not be too difficult a task as several experiments have shown in many parts of the world. Neighborhood watch is moreover a very visible and demonstrable strategy that can earn trust and credibility if it is properly managed. The Study therefore shows that neighborhood watch is a program full of potential and promise if motivated leadership of the police and the local community initiates it
1.Bucqueroux and Trojanowicz 1990 “Community Policing- A contemporary perspective” Anderson publishing Co. Cincinnati.
2. Bayley, David H.1998 “ What works in Policing” Oxford University Press
3.FriedMann, Robert.R 1992 “Community Policing” Harvester wheat Sheaf.
4. Goldstein H.1977 “ Policing a Free society “ Ballinger publishing.
5. Manning K.1978” Policing- A view from the Street”- Goodyear Publishing co.
6.Rosenbaum Dennis P.1994 “ The Challenge of community Policing” Sage.