Are you looking for ways to reduce crime, increase community engagement, and make your neighborhood a better place to live? In many neighborhoods the old-school Neighborhood Watch flyer has been retired, replaced by more convenient tools that bring safety into the 21st century.
If this sounds like something your neighborhood is ready for, here are some top tools for the Neighborhood Watch of today.
Torch puts reporting tools in the palm of your hand.
What’s the one thing most people always have on hand these days? Their smartphone. Torch is an app that allows you to report crime or suspicious behavior in a number of ways, whether it’s a written tip, a voice recording in the language you’re most comfortable with, or a video.
The app guides you through the process of reporting the incident so that you don’t accidentally miss a key piece of information, and when you’re finished it automatically sends it to the agency that’s best suited to the issue at hand. And what’s more, Torch is completely anonymous, meaning there’s no way that criminals can trace the tip to you or your phone.
Livestream crime-prone spots with security cameras.
In the past, security footage had to be recorded on clunky tapes, and neighborhood watch groups had to rely on people walking past sketchy areas on a schedule in order to look for suspicious behavior. If a tagger or drug dealer showed up in between walks? Your group was out of luck.
Nowadays, anyone with an internet connection can keep an eye on critical areas from the comfort of their own home. Password protection keeps the stream from being tracked by people from outside your group. If something does happen, you can check recorded footage as well. This can work as a permanent solution in locations where crimes often take place, or temporarily when you’ve recently seen an uptick in criminal activity in a certain area, as when a specific home or business is being targeted with vandalism.
There are a wide variety of security cameras capable of live streaming available at various price points. You’ll want to look at the specifications needed for your particular situation.
Google Forms can help you keep incidents organized.
What happened when you witnessed a crime or suspicious activity in the past? You reported it to the authorities, of course, but then you called your primary Neighborhood Watch contact, who hauled out the phone tree to alert everyone. Then the secretary of your group wrote up a report in a binder which then proceeded to … sit on their bookshelf until the next meeting.
Today, collecting and organizing data is easier than ever. Google Forms (which fall under Google Drive) allows your Neighborhood Watch group to put together a single form that can be used to record all incidents in your neighborhood. You decide what kind of data you want to collect, such as the date, time, and location of the incident, the person who witnessed it, a description of the incident, and whether the authorities were alerted. Google then assembles all this information for you, creating easy-to-read charts and graphs as well as downloadable spreadsheets.
Anyone with permission can view this information at any time, so if you wake up at 3am and wonder whether your side of the street has seen an increase in crime in the last two months, that information is available. This kind of data is also invaluable if you end up presenting your neighborhood’s needs to elected officials or nonprofit organizations.
Empower yourself and your neighbors to help keep your community safe. Download the Torch app today and start submitting anonymous tips to your local authorities.