Neighborhood watch

Evidence Rating  
Scientifically Supported
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  

Residents who participate in neighborhood watches report suspicious or potentially criminal behavior to local law enforcement. Residents work together to help law enforcement solve problems, and are typically led by a block organizer who serves as the liaison with local police1. Some neighborhood watches conduct security surveys and encourage residents to mark their property with personal identifiers2.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced crime

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced vandalism

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that neighborhood watches reduce crime; watches have been shown to reduce crime between 16 and 26%2. Neighborhood watch programs are also a suggested strategy to prevent vandalism3. Additional study is needed to confirm which neighborhood watch practices most effectively reduce crime2.

A study of neighborhood watch signs suggests that effects of these signs on individuals’ fear of burglary may vary by neighborhoods’ socio-economic condition. Signs appear to increase concerns of burglary in low income neighborhoods, especially when the sign is aged or defaced, but appear to have less effect on concerns about burglary in high income neighborhoods4.

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

The National Neighborhood Watch and many local law enforcement agencies provide neighborhood watch volunteers with training and materials1.

Implementation Resources

NNW - National Neighborhood Watch (NNW). A Division of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

BJA-Program manual - Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Neighborhood watch manual.

BJA-Resources for Native American - Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Watch out, help out your community: Neighborhood watch resources for Native American communities.


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1 NNW - National Neighborhood Watch (NNW). A Division of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

2 Campbell-Bennett 2008 - Bennett T, Holloway K, Farrington D. The effectiveness of neighborhood watch. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2008:18.

3 Scott 2007 - Scott ML, La Vigne NG, Palmer T. Preventing Vandalism. Washington DC: The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center; 2007.

4 Schultz 2009 - Schultz PW, Tabanico JJ. Criminal beware: A social norms perspective on posting public warning signs. Criminology. 2009;47(4):1201-22.

Date Last Updated