Recognizing the need to keep Medford’s neighborhoods healthy and safe, Medford Police Department decided to start the Neighborhood Watch Program. According to Medford Police Department, Neighborhood Watch is not just the formation of a neighborhood patrol group. The program is a cooperative effort among citizens and the Medford Police Department. In recent years, there is a new increased priority on forming, organizing, and coordinating watch groups in Medford. In 2007 the number of neighborhood watches per beat ranged from 2 to 21 and by 2013 it was 2 to 27 per beat. As a result, this study aims to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing the city’s crime rates.
Neighborhood Watch is a crime prevention program that stresses education and common sense. Launched by the National Sheriffs’ Association in 1972, Neighborhood Watch teaches citizens how to help themselves by identifying and reporting suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. In addition, it provides citizens with the opportunity to make their neighborhoods safer and improve the quality of life.
The mission of the Neighborhood Watch programs in Medford is to enhance neighborhood security, heighten the community’s power of observation, and to encourage mutual assistance and concerns among neighbors.
Primary Research Question
Does an increase in the number of neighborhood watch groups have an effect on crime in the city? Are neighborhood watch groups effective?
Researchers obtained crime data from the Medford Police Department, including total offenses in each patrol area, or beat, from the year 2007 through 2013. Researchers ran several regressions across the seven beats; each beat had varying numbers of neighborhood watch groups. Researchers also ran analyses to make sure their results were not significantly affected by the wealth of the beats/areas.
This research does not explain why neighborhood watch groups in Medford are associated with reductions in crime. Further research is needed to determine what additional factors are contributing to the reduction in crime.
- One additional neighborhood watch group in a given patrol area decreased total crime by about 3%
- One additional neighborhood watch group per kilometer decreased crime by about 18.8%.
- Neighborhood watch groups had greater effects on certain types of crime (type 1- theft, robbery, burglary, vandalism, trespassing, see full study for all 23 crimes included in this category) than when compared to models including total crime.
- Neighborhood watch groups did not have any effect in reducing crime in type 2 crimes (murder aggravated assault, financial crimes, sex crimes, restraining order violations, see full study for all crimes included in this category).
- All the research findings were not influenced by a selection bias where more neighborhood watch groups were being formed in high-income beats with low crime.
This research shows that neighborhood watch groups are effective in reducing crime for specific offenses such as robbery, theft, burglary, vandalism, trespassing, crime damage, and shoplifting. When organizing neighborhood watch groups it is helpful to look at the number of groups per kilometer within a patrol area, to account for differences in size of patrol areas. Some beats may be larger than others, and neighborhood watch groups are more effective when there is more than one group per kilometer.