How to Fight Crime at the Local Level

Three Parts:Reporting CrimesStarting a Neighborhood Crime-Watch GroupInvesting in Your Community to Fight Crime

Crime is a serious problem, even in small communities. In order to fight crime at the local level, you should report criminal activity to your local police. If you don’t report crime, then nothing will stop the criminal from committing more crimes in the future. You might also want to form (or join) a neighborhood crime watch. Crime watch groups look out for each other’s safety and report suspicious activity to the police.

Part 1
Reporting Crimes

  1. Image titled Fight Crime at the Local Level Step 1
    Document the crime. If you were the victim of a crime, then seek immediate medical help. You can hold onto your medical records, as these will serve as proof of the crime.
    • If someone has committed property crime, then document the crime by taking photographs or video. If you see someone breaking into a vehicle or assaulting another person, then take video using your smart phone.
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    Write down details about the suspect. As soon as you feel comfortable, you should write down your memories of the crime, including what the suspect looked like.[1] For example, pay attention to the following identifying characteristics:[2]
    • height and size
    • age
    • race
    • sex
    • hair color and eye color
    • what the suspect was wearing
    • whether the suspect had a weapon
    • any unique identifying characteristics, such as walking with a limp, facial scars, or tattoos
    • vehicle identification, if a vehicle was used
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    Decide whether to report anonymously. You can usually report crimes anonymously by using the Crime Stoppers program. Crime Stoppers runs a hotline, 800-222-TIPS, which you can call.[3] They also have an online web form you could complete by visiting their website and clicking on your state and city.[4]
    • However, if you report anonymously, then the police can’t follow up with you to get more information. They also won’t be able to ask you to testify if they decide to prosecute the suspect.
    • Nevertheless, you can report anonymously if you are afraid of the suspect and are afraid that they may take revenge.
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    Call the police. You can report a crime to local law enforcement, usually by phone. If there is an emergency that needs immediate attention, then you should call the emergency number. In the U.S., call 911.
    • Tell the police what happened, when it happened, and where it happened. Also describe the suspects and whether there were witnesses.[5]
    • In some cities, you can file an online crime report for certain crimes. For example, in San Jose, California, you can file an online report for theft, fraud, vehicle tampering, vandalism, and harassing phone calls.[6]
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    Volunteer to testify in court. One important way to fight local crime is to get criminals off the streets and into correctional facilities or rehabilitation. For this reason, testifying in court is critical to controlling local crime. If the police need you to testify, then you should agree to do so.
    • To be an effective witness, remember to always tell the truth. You have nothing to gain by stretching the truth or guessing. Always stick to what you know for sure.[7]
    • Also meet with the district attorney or prosecutor to discuss your testimony ahead of time. They can get you familiar with the experience of testifying and provide helpful tips.

Part 2
Starting a Neighborhood Crime-Watch Group

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    Contact national watch organizations. There are several national umbrella groups that can help you create and organize a neighborhood watch group. You can find them online. If you join, then you can gain access to their training materials and other helpful information.
    • The most popular group is National Neighborhood Watch.[8] You can register with them and get help starting your own local neighborhood crime watch.
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    Spread the word in your community. You should take the lead in organizing and recruiting community members to join your watch group. You should begin by talking to your neighbors about whether they would be interested in starting a group.[9]
    • Also put up leaflets at your grocery store, library, and town office. Give people a phone number that they can call to get more information. You should also include an email address.
    • Another great way to reach people is to create a closed Facebook community. Title the group with the name of your neighborhood and city, along with the words “Crime Watch” or “Neighborhood Watch.” People can join the group for more information or to learn about upcoming events.
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    Contact law enforcement. You should call your local law enforcement and invite them to speak to your group.[10] You will want them to work collaboratively with your group, so it is vital that you establish connections with law enforcement.
    • In some cities, the police have taken the lead in helping new watch groups organize. For example, the city of Plano, Texas has started a crime watch program you can contact. The police department will help you organize and send crime bulletins to you.[11]
    • You might not want to schedule your first neighborhood crime-watch meeting until you get a commitment from law enforcement to stop by.
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    Discuss your community concerns. Your neighborhood watch group might want to focus on lessening the impact of two or three top problems. For example, you might want to lessen drug activity and loitering. Or you may be worried about property theft and graffiti. A neighborhood watch group will be most effective when it focuses on a limited number of concerns.
    • If the police cannot come to your first meeting, then spend that time letting everyone talk and try to figure out what the top three concerns are for the group as a whole.[12]
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    Create a communication plan. Members of the watch group need a way to communicate with each other. You can share information about suspicious activity, the location of crimes, and other helpful information. You should come up with a way for group members to communicate.
    • You might want to communicate using regular meetings.[13]
    • You could also use social media. Create a Twitter account, Facebook page, or email distribution list. Someone will need to be responsible for maintaining the accounts.
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    Sponsor events. You can help reduce crime in your neighborhood by tackling problems that contribute to crime. For example, overgrown lots, abandoned cars, and vacant buildings all contribute to crime. You can sponsor cleanups and encourage residents to keep the neighborhood nice.[14]
    • You can also sponsor crime and drug prevention fairs at local churches, temples, community centers, or shopping malls.
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    Look out for your neighbors. Neighborhood crime-watch groups are not vigilantes, and they do not act as police.[15] Accordingly, your watch group shouldn’t buy guns and start patrolling the streets, hoping to arrest suspects. However, you can increase the community’s safety by doing the following:
    • Create a committee that walks neighborhood children to school. Members of the committee can rotate and handle one or two walks a week.
    • Start a buddy system where people who live alone can call a neighbor when they leave to go somewhere and can call to check back in when they return home. If the person is missing for a long time, then the neighbor can call law enforcement.
    • Ask people who rarely leave their homes to act as “look outs” and to report any suspicious activity they see in the neighborhood. This is a great way for the elderly and disabled to feel part of the watch group.
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    Check if there is a “citizens on patrol” program. This is an advanced kind of neighborhood crime watch program. Citizens get in their cars and ride around, checking for suspicious activity in their neighborhood. If they spot something, they call the police.[16]
    • Citizens on patrol do not carry guns and do not attempt to arrest suspects or intervene in crimes.
    • Instead, participants are an additional set of eyes and ears for the police.

Part 3
Investing in Your Community to Fight Crime

  1. Image titled Fight Crime at the Local Level Step 14
    Invest in parks and other public spaces. Run-down public spaces breed crime. You should make it a priority to fix up public spaces like public parks and city squares. Petition your city council to install lighting and remove trash.
    • If your city won’t clean up public spaces, then organize a clean-up crew in your neighborhood. Gather trash bags and rakes and clean up the space yourself.
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    Join a mentoring program. One way to prevent crime is to mentor youth and steer them away from gangs and other criminal activity. Young people who are mentored are less likely to start using illegal drugs or alcohol. They also are less likely to engage in violent behavior.[17]
    • You can find mentoring opportunities by visiting the United We Serve website. Click on “Find a Mentoring Opportunity Now.”[18] You can then enter your zip code.
    • If no mentoring opportunity exists in your area, then you could partner with a church or other community organization to start your own mentoring program.
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    Elect officials who will fight crime. Get involved in local elections. Ask candidates questions about how they plan to reduce crime and think about volunteering or financially supporting those who offer realistic solutions.
    • As a volunteer, you become the voice of the campaign, reaching out directly to voters. You can talk to potential voters by calling or by knocking on people’s doors.[19]
    • If you don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers, then you could volunteer to help with the campaign’s social media accounts, such as its Facebook page or Twitter account.
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    Become an activist. Increase awareness in your community about the costs of crime and innovative solutions for addressing it. Remember that fighting crime doesn’t consist only of increasing arrests and punishment. For example, research has shown that offering voluntary parent coaching to at-risk parents can reduce child abuse which, in turn, can reduce crime.[20]
    • Do research online and read about local organizations around the country that are fighting crime. As an activist, you can write letters to the newspaper to increase public awareness. You can also meet with your local officials to discuss innovative programs your town could start.
    • You can also organize to increase funding for local law enforcement if you believe your police force is short on staff.

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Categories: Criminal and Penal Law Procedure