Safety is one of the most important things potential homeowners consider before moving into a new HOA community. A good way to make residents feel safer is to set up an HOA neighborhood watch. But, what exactly is the process?
In this article:
How to Set Up an HOA Neighborhood Watch
Protecting the safety of those in your community is an important aspect of property management that must not be taken lightly. Not only is there the risk of intruders, but you could also face a situation where a stranger is mistaken for a threat and injured in the process.
The best method for protecting your neighborhood is by putting in place strict safety standards that all homeowners and residents can abide by. This will ensure the highest level of protection and prevention from disastrous outcomes.
One way to do this is to put together an HOA neighborhood watch. For those who have never taken part in one, the idea of starting such a program can seem like a lot of work. And while it may take time and effort, the results are definitely worth it.
To know how to start a neighborhood watch program, follow the steps below:
1. Organize and Register a Community Neighborhood Watch
Starting a neighborhood watch begins with organizing. This means reaching out to fellow community members and telling them that you intend to set up a neighborhood watch program. You must also inform the HOA board about your plans and seek approval before pursuing the idea.
With most HOA neighborhood watch programs, a community will have watch leaders set up to perform watches within a certain amount of time and as a rotating process. These people will check that neighborhood watch program rules are being followed through.
This is great, but you want to make sure the person in this role is trustworthy also. Don’t be hesitant about running background checks on them to ensure each watch leader holds a clean legal record and a history of exceptional character. Some of the roles you should have filled include:
- Watch or block leader
- Law enforcement liaison (discussed below)
- Neighborhood watch coordinator
- Watch members
After recruiting members, it’s time to register your neighborhood watch. By this time, you should have already informed the HOA board of your intentions. You can then register your program with the National Neighborhood Watch.
2. Get a Law Enforcement Liaison
In order to set up and help maintain HOA neighborhood watch groups, a community needs a law enforcement liaison. This person will also help the community create goals for the program and execute it in real life. This way, community members can act as the eyes and ears of law enforcement when not available. The liaison will provide the tools needed.
Make sure to get in touch with local law enforcement and schedule a meeting with them. Ask them to attend your watch meetings. Local law enforcement can also orient the watch members on crime in your neighborhood and train them on the proper way to handle various situations.
A neighborhood watch program is not an excuse for community members to act as police officers. This is a collaborative effort, so both sides of the coin should participate.
3. Create an Action Plan
During your first HOA neighborhood watch meeting, discuss the issues plaguing your community. Gather facts about crime by referring to newspaper clippings, police reports, and the like. Then, develop an action plan that will help you tackle the top issues. This includes any rules that members must follow. It’s also a good idea to map out the entire community and label each unit with names, phone numbers, and addresses.
Part of what the liaison will do is help residents be prepared for when suspicious activity is observed. They should know the instances when it’s appropriate to call HOA police officers and any times it could be appropriate for residents to get involved with suspicious occurrences.
You’ll also want to determine if community members should be equipped with any items to help assist during threatening situations. Your police liaison will be able to answer any questions you have and provide guidance for an action plan.
4. Decide on Communication Tools
Your HOA neighborhood watch members should have a way to communicate with each other, both on-duty and off-duty. Walkie talkies or two-way radios work fine when you’re on the job, but smartphones are good options, too.
Off-duty, watch members can either discuss certain issues during watch meetings or through social media. You can even utilize both of these options.
If you do decide to hold meetings, make sure to hold them regularly. Inform members of the schedule ahead of time. That way, you can expect high attendance.
These meetings should also follow the standard procedures of other meetings. Create an agenda and make sure to stick to it. Have someone take the minutes of the meeting to be distributed later on. Discuss old and new business. By having protocols like these, you can ensure meetings are kept in order.
If you decide to create a social media group for your watch program, see to it that you lay ground rules for posting and commenting as well. That means no rants, derogatory or offensive language, and unnecessary remarks. Posts must be kept professional at all times. You can even take it a step further and create your own neighborhood watch website which residents can also access.
5. Act and Adjust
After organizing and registering your HOA neighborhood watch program, it’s time to start patrolling the community. Remember to keep the neighborhood watch program rules in mind at all times. Make sure to cooperate with local law enforcement. Hold regular meetings or events and always communicate. If you find that some of your plans aren’t working well, make adjustments.
The Purpose of an HOA Neighborhood Watch
The protection of your communities should be a top priority. And having the tools in place to ensure safety will give you the best advice, plan of action, and preparedness to help members feel at ease. An HOA neighborhood watch program will not only help keep residents’ minds at ease, but it also promotes camaraderie and cooperation. Best of all, it helps lower the crime rate in your neighborhood.
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