Neighbourhood watch: issues and policy implications


The sign which displays the presence of a neighbourhood watch program is now a familiar sight in many parts of Australia. At a time of substantial community concern about the state of crime, and especially residential burglaries, neighbourhood watch has been at the forefront of a combined effort by police and citizens to 'turn the situation around'.

Just how successful the effort has been is the important question considered in this Trends and Issues report. The good news is that where a high level of citizen participation occurred in a neighbourhood watch program significant reductions were likely to be achieved in reported residential burglaries. The bad news is that these positive results were mixed with other less encouraging findings, including a possible displacement of crime to offences other than residential burglaries, or to other areas not covered by neighbourhood watch.

The widespread enthusiasm and support for neighbourhood watch exhibited by large numbers of Australians should not be dashed or diminished by these research results. Neighbourhood watch remains a symbol of renewed emphasis by police and citizens alike to work together in the task of preventing crime. The challenge now is to find ways of continuing this task within neighbourhoods and the community at large.