Neighbourhood watch

Setting up a neighbourhood watch scheme in your area, can help you and your neighbours feel safe. It can also help to prevent crime. You can set up a watch to cover just one street, a couple of streets or part or all of an estate.

Setting up a scheme in your area

Firstly you’ll need to talk to your neighbours and see if there is support for setting up a neighbourhood watch scheme in your area. It is important to find out:

  • if there is enough support to set up a scheme
  • what area the scheme should cover
  • if neighbours have free time to be involved

You should then speak to the police and local Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) about your idea. They will be able to give you advice, support and help you to agree how to set up and maintain your scheme.

If you decide to go ahead, you will need to appoint someone to be your neighbourhood watch coordinator. Ideally this should be someone well known and trusted in your community, who also has the time to maintain the scheme.

You can have more than one coordinator, especially if your scheme covers a few streets or an estate.

The coordinator must apply for accreditation from the PSNI, before an application for a new scheme can be made. Once your coordinator has been approved, they will need to complete an application form to register the scheme.

Find out more about starting your own neighbourhood watch scheme on the PSNI website.

Role of the neighbourhood watch coordinator

The coordinator will:

  • talk to local residents about supporting the scheme and encourage them to join
  • keep a register of all scheme members
  • keep in contact with the police – telling them about any suspicious and criminal incidents, and general community concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour in the area
  • be the first point of contact for local residents and the wider community if they need to get or give information
  • meet with other local neighbourhood watch co-ordinators to share experiences and good practice
  • go to regular meetings with the police to discuss local community safety issues
  • help maintain the scheme – handing out leaflets and newsletters, property marking and putting up neighbourhood watch signs

You can find out more about the responsibilities of a neighbourhood watch coordinator by downloading the induction pack on the PSNI website.

Keep in mind

It is your neighbourhood watch scheme – you run it for the benefit of your community, your neighbours, family and friends. The police and other organisations are there to support you. Remember:

  • to ask for support when you need it
  • no one in the scheme is expected to put themselves at any risk
  • you do not have to do any more than an ordinary member in terms of keeping your eyes open and reporting suspicious activities
  • you are not expected to make special efforts to be vigilant
  • you are not responsible if a crime or criminal is not noticed
  • you don't have any special powers, or any additional responsibilities, above those of an ordinary citizen

If you are the co-ordinator, don’t let yourself become a one-person security service for your area. Encourage all members to support each other.

Find out more useful information about about crime prevention and keeping yourself and your community safe at the links below.

Reporting suspicious activity

If you do spot suspicious behaviour in your area, it’s important to write down as much information about what you’ve seen as possible. Here are some tips on what to look for when observing people, or vehicles:

  • person - gender, age, skin colour, build, height, dress
  • hair - colour, length, curly/straight, receding, bald
  • face - shape, complexion, beard or moustache
  • mouth - shape, teeth
  • eyes - glasses, eye colour
  • marks – scars, tattoos, piercings
  • vehicle type - car, van, lorry, bike
  • vehicle details - make, model, colour, registration number or any distinguishing details (for example company name, damage, decoration)

You can download and print off an observation card from the PSNI website to help you record any sightings or incidents.

You should then report what you have seen to the police. It is important to do this as quickly as possible, but remember you should only call 999 in an emergency.

Find out more about reporting crime to the police.

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