Abstracts: October 20th, 2008

Neighbourhood watch programmes have been operating in the UK for more than a quarter of a century and this report assesses their effectiveness. Neighbourhood Watch is based on the principle that encouraging neighbours to look out for and report suspicious behavior to the police will bring about a reduction in crime. This in turn will deter potential offenders from committing a crime if they believe that areas where the programmes operate are too risky and improved police investigation and enforcement will incapacitate offenders.

The review, on which the report is based,found that Neighborhood Watch was associated with a reduction in crime, but it is not immediately clear why this is so. Neighborhood Watch might serve to increase surveillance, reduce opportunities, and enhance informal social control. One example of reducing the opportunities for crime is the creation of signs of occupancy, such as removing newspapers from outside neighbours’ homes when they are away, mowing the lawn, and filling up rubbish bins.

The report concludes that it is impossible to quantify whether the greatest benefit from Neighborhood Watch is to deter offenders from committing a crime or whether it is to enhance police investigation.

The report is available from the Home Office. http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/crimereduction038.htm