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Crimes Against Property - Neighborhood Watch

neighborhoods communities residents role

From 1930 to the early 1970s the nation's police departments took full responsibility for protecting communities and neighborhoods from crime. Private residents played little role in crime prevention. By the late 1960s, however, property and violent crimes began increasing at a dramatic rate. In 1965 U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69) declared a "war on crime" and assembled the Crime Commission to guide the nation.

The commission urged American citizens to take a more active role in protecting themselves, primarily by installing more locks and alarms in their residences. In 1973 a national commission recommended an expanded role for citizens, such as forming citizen groups to organize and prevent crime in their neighborhoods. A well-known program to emerge from this effort was Neighborhood Watch.

Neighborhood Watch programs consist of residents who watch out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods and notify the police if they spot criminal activity. The participants exchange phone numbers, receive training from local police officers, and learn how to report suspicious activity. Neighborhood Watch signs are posted in the area alerting potential criminals that a neighborhood alert system is in place. Local watch groups will often inspect their neighborhoods for ways to increase security. In some high crime neighborhoods, citizens expanded their vigilance to look for drug trafficking as well as property crimes.

These efforts were so successful nationally that, by the end of the twentieth century, 40 percent of Americans lived in communities with Neighborhood Watch programs. The majority of residents in Watch communities were active participants in their programs. Neighborhood Watch has become the largest crime prevention program in the nation, with more than fifty million people estimated to be involved.

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