Here's the thing about most criminals: they're opportunists. The business of securing yourself against them consists mostly of limiting opportunity. Except for the highest level professionals, there was never a crook who wanted to go to a lot of trouble.
Most don't plan much, and give up at the first sign of an obstacle. That's the good news about personal and home security. Limit opportunity slightly, and you avoid 75% of the crime that might otherwise be perpetrated against you. Limit opportunity significantly, and 90% of it goes away.
One problem is that the sheer number of criminals is rising rapidly. Crime is increasing everywhere even though we are catching them and putting them away in record numbers. That's why you need more than just deterrents. That 90% is about the best you can do in keeping them away, and that means the remaining 10% is still a significant number. But protection from those that are not deterred is for another article.
There are many ways to deter crime at home, but one of the most effective can be a neighborhood watch program. You say you don't have one? No problem. With a little energy and salesmanship, you can easily get one going.
What are the benefits? First of all, the basic premise of a neighborhood watch is that there's safety in numbers. People have been forming various types of alliances to ensure their safety since time began. Someone in your neighborhood is always home, and if people are looking out for one another, it's harder for perpetrators to sneak around. Other benefits are that you get to know your neighbors better (something sorely lacking in most neighborhoods nowadays), you provide an avenue of communication between police and citizens, and you renew interest in civic activity.
Setting it Up
To set up a neighborhood watch program, you should first contact your local police precinct. Neighborhood watches are not vigilante groups, and no one is, nor should be, expected to take risks in preventing crime. It is a cooperative effort that leaves catching criminals to the professionals. Ask your city police department if they have a neighborhood watch program available or a citizen safety awareness program of any kind. It will be a rare department that doesn't. Usually, the program consists of making training available to citizens, often via a once-a-month meeting at a neighborhood home, and often led by a police officer. This free training teaches you and your neighbors how to identify suspicious situations; vehicles that don't belong, how suspicious people act, and so forth. It does teach some intervention, such as what to do about suspicious loiterers, and a few safe tactics to deter a burglary in progress, but mostly it teaches citizens how to know when a situation is suspicious enough to call the police, and how to be alert to those situations. There is often training in general handling of an emergency and even emergency medical training. You can add value by having specialists, such as fire experts or home security experts conduct the occasional meeting.
One benefit that most people don't realize the importance of is that most of these programs provide window stickers and lawn signs indicating that the neighborhood is protected by a neighborhood watch. Crime prevention experts largely agree that these visible signs are one of the better deterrents to criminal activity.
One word of warning though. Many of these groups fall apart when neighbors try to bring up concerns other than neighborhood crime prevention. When someone starts complaining about the loud dog down the block, it's time to refocus.
Of course, the final step is to sell it to your neighbors. Tell them about the benefits to everyone, and most will be grateful you brought it up. Then, set up your first meeting. Offer your house if you can, then try to get everyone to rotate it. It's a great way to get to see the inside of that that two-story brownstone you've been admiring as you drove by.
It is unreasonable to think that police departments can prevent all crime, or even a large proportion of it. But when groups of citizen’s partner in an appropriate way with the police, that becomes a big problem to the criminal element. Look into it. It's working all over the country.