Throughout the history of Neighbourhood Watch, new schemes have been established at a steady rate; however the number of active NWs has remained relatively static. The main reason for this is that, although relatively easy to set up, the ability to sustain NW schemes through time can be challenging.
The main reasons for poor sustainability have been:
No clear aims or objectives
The problems the scheme was set up to address have been "solved"
Lack of communication
Ineffective partnership between NW and other agencies
Over reliance on a single person or a small number of individuals within schemes
Constantly changing residence within neighbourhoods
Reduced opportunities for communities to meet and discuss common issues
Although there are many reasons why NW schemes may falter there is good practice that can be adopted to help sustain NW:
Appropriate communication – People will lose interest quickly if they are not kept informed. Equally, if they feel they are constantly being contacted about things that are not relevant or not important, they will switch off. Communication should be appropriate to the needs of your scheme. Talk to your members about it and come to an agreement about how often they'd like to be contacted, and which subjects they want to hear about.
It’s not just about crime – Keeping your community safe is more than just preventing crime. It can involve home-safety, fire safety, road safety, online safety, safety from scams, personal safety. There's a wealth of safety advice available on the internet. Check out some of these links.
Get involved – You don't have to be constantly thinking up new things to do because there will generally be something happening in your area that you can tap into. Find out what safety initiatives are happening in your community and get your Neighbourhood Watch involved.
Effective partnerships – The police are not the only partner that Neighbourhood Watch can work with. Any partnership must meet the needs of both partners. Keep things simple – have realistic objectives and aim for tangible results.
Shared responsibility - Responsibilities within a NW scheme should be shared and not rest on the co-ordinator. Deputising and succession planning for co-ordinator roles can bring great benefit and helps members to feel part of the scheme.
Meets the needs - The structure of your NW, regularity and timing of meetings and activities must meet the needs of the majority of your members, not a select few. You can always review this after a little while to make sure that the scheme is working for people. The easier you make it for people to be part of the group, the more they will participate.
New Residents – Tell new people about your NW and the benefits it brings.
Share with others - Share your challenges, successes and ideas with other NW schemes in your area or region. Perhaps you could form an association or group to make this happen. Again it may be simply sharing this via communication.