Setting Up and Running a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme

For people considering setting up a scheme, the first step is to speak to neighbours and find out if they are also interested. The more residents there are who want to get involved, the more successful a scheme will be. But not everyone in a street or neighbourhood needs to join a scheme for it to work. It will work as long as there are enough residents to keep an eye out for each other’s properties.

All Neighbourhood Watch Schemes need to have a co-ordinator,
(or co-ordinators) responsible for the running of the scheme. We highly recommend at least two, which allows for when holidays or illness and the like occur. A co-ordinator shall act as representative, and be able to liaise with the police and the Suffolk Neighbourhood Watch Association (SNWA). Where more than one co-ordinator runs a scheme, it may be also be useful for the scheme to agree a Lead Co-ordinator for this role. The closer the links with SNWA and the police, the more effective a scheme will be. 

In summary, a scheme shall consist of:

  • Lead Co-ordinator – main point of contact for SNWA and police
  • Co-ordinator(s) – points of contact for members of a scheme
  • Members – residents in the scheme

Points to consider when setting up a scheme:

  • Do you need more than one coordinator?
  • Do you need to set up a small committee?
  • Who would be the lead co-ordinator?
  • Do you need to appoint a treasurer?
  • How will you raise funds and cover the costs of running the scheme (e.g. newsletters, meetings) if needed?
  • How will you communicate with members?
  • Will you produce newsletters? If so, how often and who will produce them?
  • How often will you meet and where?
  • How will you deal with new requests for membership?

Size and dispersal of schemes

There are no hard and fast rules about the size of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. This can vary depending on the geography of the area. A good rule is to think about which houses can see each other, so that they can keep an eye open for any suspicious activity. But some schemes don’t fit into that model, such as long straight roads, blocks of flats and rural areas where houses are widely spaced, so choose what works best for you.

Activities & partnerships

Traditionally, Neighbourhood Watch activities have focused on the immediate vicinity of homes, with members looking out for anything suspicious and helping their neighbours. However, more and more schemes are broadening their work to target a range of other problems such as anti-social behaviour, vandalism and graffiti. When links are made with other local schemes and wider alliances are formed, the membership can become a powerful voice within a community and get actively involved in problem-solving.

Neighbourhood Watch is well-known to help reduce burglary, anti-social behaviour, doorstep crime, and environmental problems. But criminals are no longer constrained by geographical boundaries, and in recent years there has been a steady rise in fraud and cybercrime.

Neighbourhood Watch is in a strong position to help tackle this kind of crime as well, by being a trusted source of information and support for people within their communities and keeping their eyes open for those who might be vulnerable. Victims of fraud and cybercrime might be embarrassed to confide in their families, or worry about losing their independence, and may not know that a crime has been committed or feel that they can’t report it to the police. This is where Neighbourhood Watch members and coordinators can help.

As well as the SNWA and the police, Neighbourhood Watch schemes may also work with other agencies within their area who have an interest in reducing crime and building stronger communities. These may include Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs), local authority environmental and social care teams, Trading Standards services, and Fire & Rescue services. You might also want to link up with other community groups like Residents Associations and special interest or cultural groups.

Social activities also form a strong community engagement amongst some Neighbourhood Watch schemes. Events such as coffee mornings for fund raising causes, street parties for special occasions, or even organized trips and functions often take place by various schemes up and down the UK, but is by no means indicative to the success of a scheme.

Setting aims & objectives for a scheme

One of the most important steps when starting up a scheme is to decide on its aims and objectives. We recommend a simple four-step process for setting the aims and objectives of a scheme.

Step 1 - Identify issues

The first step in setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme must be to ask: ‘What do you want to achieve in your street, neighbourhood or estate?’ Think about any specific issues that may exist and how Neighbourhood Watch can help reduce them. 

The easiest way of doing this is, of course, to ask neighbours and other local residents. It might also be useful to look at your area’s crime statistics on

Please also remember that there does not necessarily always have to be a problem for a NW scheme to be set up. It can be used as a preventative tool also.

Step 2
- Decide what can be done

Once problems or issues have been identified, consider what a Neighbourhood Watch group might be able to do to help solve or improve these situations.

Step 3
- How to make it happen?

Think about the resources that will help carry out planned activities. Resources don’t just mean money; they also include things like time, space for meetings, and access to resources such as stationery and printers.

Step 4
- Review expectations

If plans do not meet the original expectations, it is important that these are altered before they are put into action.

Taking the next steps

All NW schemes in Suffolk need to be registered with the SNWA.

The process requires basic details to be provided, for the purpose of recording contact and location details, along with the number of properties to be included in a proposed scheme.

By providing these details, SNWA (as a recognised organisation) can confirm new schemes to the Suffolk Constabulary, via a Safer Neighbourhood Team located in the area of the proposed scheme.

Once a scheme is accepted for registration, further steps can then be put in place to arrange official NW signage. 

Please note: In the current process, there is a legal requirement  that requires signage for all NEW schemes to be installed by the Suffolk County Council Highways Contractor. This requirement incurs a potential cost for the purchase and installion of the signs. To offset these potential costs, all schemes are encouraged to apply for local grants/funds - more details can be found in the FUNDRAISING document, availalable to download here.

Maintaining a scheme

We recommend aims and objectives of schemes are reviewed once a year to ensure that they are achieving their goals. Schemes should change activities and their emphasis to ensure that they always remain responsive to the needs of its members. It’s important that you don’t treat your original plans as set in stone.

© Suffolk Neighbourhood Watch Association 2020   I   email us
Suffolk Neighbourhood Watch Association, Neighbourhood Partnership Team, Landmark House, Ipswich. IP1 5PF