Neighbourhood watch (also known as block watch, apartment watch, home watch and community watch) grew out of a movement in the US during the late 1960s that promoted greater involvement of citizens in the prevention of crime. Since then, interest in neighbourhood watch has grown considerably and recent estimates suggest that over a quarter of the UK population and overforty per cent of the US live in areas covered by the neighbourhood watch schemes. The primary aim of this review is to assess the effectiveness of neighbourhood watch in reducing crime. Studies were identified by searching 11 electronic databases. In addition, studies were sought using online library catalogues, literature reviews, list of references, and published bibliographies. Leading researchers in the field were also contacted when there was a particular need to do so. The narrative review was based on 17 studies (covering 36 evaluations) and the meta-analysis was that neighbourhood watch was followed by a reduction in crimeof between16 and 26 per cent. This review concludes that across all studies neighbourhood watch was followed by a reduction in crime. However, it is not immediately clear why neighbourhood watch is effective. The analysis of moderator variables failed to show any clear differences between more and less effective studies in terms of methods usedor programme design. It is possible that the reductions in crime were associated with some of the essential features of neighbourhood watch schemes. Neighbourhood watch might serve to increase surveillance, reduce opportunities for crimeor enhance informal social control. Unfortunately this kind of information is not provided in the majority of evaluations and the precise reasons for the results are not clear at present. Nevertheless, the existence evidence justifies the continued use of neighbourhood watch and suggests that further research is needed to identify the key features of effective programmes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSwedish National Council on Crime Prevention
Commissioning bodySwedish National Council on Crime Prevention
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008

    Research areas

  • neighbourhood watch, effectiveness, crime

ID: 124307