Neighborhood Watch is a great way to maintain a healthy and vibrant neighborhood, as well as aid local law enforcement in their efforts to stop crime. Neighbors build relationships with one another, learn about crime prevention, and work collaboratively to report suspicious activity and reduce crime.
Registration is required to be eligible for the Neighborhood Watch Grant, have your group appear on the Neighborhood Watch map, and receive Neighborhood Watch signage. Before registering with the City, new groups (including those that have let their registration lapse) must meet the following criteria:
- Define boundaries that do not overlap with other Neighborhood Watch groups.
- Demonstrate engagement from a majority of households in the Neighborhood Watch area using the Neighborhood Watch Notification Signature Form to show neighbors have been made aware of the Neighborhood Watch group.
- Define a communications plan that describes how the group will stay in communication, including with residents without access to the internet.
- Hold an orientation with the Sheriff’s Office that all residents in the Neighborhood Watch group are invited to attend. Submit a request for an orientation.
- Provide 1 method for the public to contact the Neighborhood Watch Group when you register. This information will be shared on the City of Saratoga website and publicly available. The contact method does not need to be personal contact information.
All set? Register online!
Need help? Get in touch with the City.
Tips for Getting Started
- Get help. Find a few neighbors to gauge interest in forming a group and seek help from neighbors to get started.
- Pick a Neighborhood Watch lead. The Lead serves as the primary spokesperson for the group, acts as a liaison between the neighborhood and other groups, such as the City and Sheriff's Office, and is responsible for overall administration of the Neighborhood Watch group.
- Select the boundaries of your group. Neighborhood Watch boundaries may not overlap with existing groups shown on the map. Consider seeking out "block captains" to help manage larger groups.
- Engage your neighbors. Hold a meeting with all of your neighbors to introduce the idea of Neighborhood Watch and get agreement on concerns, goals, and neighborhood boundaries. Ask your neighbors to sign the Neighborhood Watch Registration Signature form. Neighborhood Watch groups are required to show a majority of households in your Neighborhood Watch area have been engaged before registering.
- Hold an orientation with the Sheriff's Office. Invite all residents in your Neighborhood Watch group to attend to learn how to identify suspicious activity and receive tips for keeping your home and family safe.
- Register your Neighborhood Watch group with the City.
- Stay active. Hold at least 1 gathering per year and let the City know about your activity. Groups that do not hold 1 gathering per year will need to go through the full registration process again.
Neighborhood Watch Leads & Block Captains
Each group must select at least 1 person to serve as the Neighborhood Watch Lead. The Lead is the primary administrator for the group and is able to speak on behalf of the group, maintains group records, and serves as a liaison between the neighborhood and other groups, like the City or Sheriff's Office.
Block Captains are a great resource, especially for larger Neighborhood Watch groups. Block Captains are typically responsible for disseminating information to the residents on their block or zone. They also help organize neighborhood activities.
All Neighborhood Watch roles are voluntary. The City does not pay or employ Neighborhood Watch Leads or Block Captains for their work.
New Neighborhood Watch Requirements
Public Point of Contact
Each group must provide 1 method for the public to contact the Neighborhood Watch group. Leads are not required to provide personal contact information. They may create a generic email account for your group and/or a social media page/group that the public can access.
You can share your group’s public point of contact by completing this form.
Neighborhood Watch Gathering
Saratoga Neighborhood Watch groups are now required to hold 1 neighborhood gathering per calendar year to stay registered with the City of Saratoga. Gatherings must be open to the entire Neighborhood Watch group, but do not need to be focused on Neighborhood Watch. For example, gatherings could include a pool party, personal emergency preparedness class, or a meeting with a representative of the Sheriff’s Office to receive public safety news.
Groups will have until the end of December to confirm that they have held a gathering. Groups can do so by completing a confirmation form.
Groups that do not hold a gathering and become unregistered will be removed from the City Neighborhood Watch Map and will not be eligible for the Neighborhood Watch grant. To become active again, these groups will be subject to the registration requirements described above.
Invite Saratoga's Public Safety Agencies to your Neighborhood Watch Event!
- Sheriff's Office: You may invite a member of the Sheriff's Office to your Neighborhood Watch Orientation (for new groups) for a 20-30 minute presentation or request that a member of the Sheriff's Office drop into your next Neighborhood Watch gathering/meeting for 15-20 minutes as time permits to share current trends and tips. Requests must be submitted at least 1 week in advance.
- Fire Department: Request that local Saratoga firefighters stop by your event to briefly meet your Neighborhood Watch group. Requests must be submitted at least 2 weeks in advance.
Please be advised the members of the Sheriff's Office and Fire Department are on duty. They may be unable to attend your event or leave quickly if they receive a 9-1-1 call.
Neighborhood Watch Grants
Each Neighborhood Watch group now has the opportunity to receive one annual grant of up to $300. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until funding runs out. To apply, groups must:
- Be registered with the City of Saratoga. Check the Neighborhood Watch map to confirm that your group is registered.
- The recipient of the grant must be identified as a Neighborhood Watch lead with the City of Saratoga. Contact the City if you are unsure if you are listed as a lead.
- After you spend the funds, submit a report to the City by June 30 sharing how the grant was used.
Neighborhoods can decide how they would like to use the money. Examples of how the grant may be used include annual block parties, flyers, supplies for meetings, cameras, and informational materials. The primary goal of the new grant program is to help keep Neighborhood Watch groups organized and engaged for years to come.
Neighborhood Watch Privacy & Outreach Guidelines
The following serves as guidelines for how residents working within a Neighborhood Watch group should make use of and manage personal information, which includes any information that can be used to identify, contact, or locate a person, such as email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses.
- Personal information should only be collected with the knowledge and consent of the individual(s) concerned.
- When collecting personal information, clearly disclose the purpose for which the information is being collected, who will have access to it, and how the individual concerned can have his or her information removed from the group’s records (for example, an option to unsubscribe to emails). A sample disclosure statement is below. It can be adjusted as needed for your group.
Sample Disclosure Statement:
Any personal information that you provide will be used for Neighborhood Watch purposes only, including to share safety information, announce Neighborhood Watch activities, and coordinate Neighborhood Watch efforts. The Neighborhood Watch Lead(s) and your designated block captain (if applicable) will be the only people who have access to your information. You may request that your information be removed from the Neighborhood Watch group’s records at any time by contacting your Neighborhood Watch Lead(s).
- Personal information should be used only for the purposes by which it was collected. Obtain additional consent of the individual(s) concerned before using personal information in a different manner.
- Protect personal information through reasonable safeguards against unauthorized access or theft. Remove personal information from the group’s records upon request.
Neighborhood Watch Leads in Saratoga share a common challenge: communicating effectively with their Neighborhood Watch members. Communication is an ongoing process, the way we communicate with each other is very fluid, and there is no one size fits all solution. Below are some guidelines to help Leads overcome communication challenges:
- Go door to door. The primary goal of Neighborhood Watch is to build community, so neighbors know each other and are better equipped to look out for each other. In-person conversations are the best way to start building relationships. Additionally, not all residents have access to the internet or electronic communications, like email. Stopping by their door is a great way to keep these neighbors engaged in Neighborhood Watch. Be prepared to encounter neighbors who may not answer their door or don’t want to engage in a conversation about Neighborhood Watch. Bring printed handouts with the information you want to share that can be left on the doorstep of neighbors who may not be home or interested in talking. Seek out volunteers that can help with door to door communications.
- Create a roster. While going door to door is an important part of communicating with your neighbors, it shouldn’t be the only option in your communications toolkit. Invite neighbors to share their contact information, so you can create a roster or set up an email or social media group. Free team-based communication tools are also another great way to engage neighbors in conversation. Be sure to follow the privacy guidelines provided by the City before collecting contact information!
- Communicate often. Many Neighborhood Watch Leads have reported that communicating regularly, at least once a month, helps keep safety and Neighborhood Watch on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Consider subscribing to and sharing content from the City’s Saratoga Source, Neighborhood Watch Newsletter, and Nextdoor account.
- Be consistent. Clearly identify your outreach materials and messages as “Neighborhood Watch” so your neighbors immediately know what to expect. Consider using the City’s template for Neighborhood Watch event flyers.
- Stick with safe topics. Don’t let your communications divide your Neighborhood Watch group. Consider steering clear of topics that might create controversy, like politics.
Neighborhood Watch Gathering Q&A
Neighborhood Watch groups required to hold one gathering per year, because bringing people together is a great way to build community and strengthen your Neighborhood Watch group. Below are some frequently asked questions about organizing Neighborhood Watch events.
What have other groups done?
Neighborhood Watch groups in Saratoga are very creative! Here are some examples of get-togethers that Saratoga groups have organized:
- Ice cream social in a neighbor's driveway
- Backyard pool party/barbeque
- Holiday cookie exchange
- Block party in a cul-de-sac
- Saturday morning coffee in a neighbor's driveway or park
- Personal emergency preparedness class
- Weeknight wine and cheese sampling
Who is responsible for organizing the gathering?
The Neighborhood Watch Lead(s) and others interested in helping usually organize get-togethers. Consider forming an event planning committee and rotating responsibilities periodically to avoid burn out.
When and where should the gathering happen?
There’s no wrong time to organize a gathering, but late spring, summer, and early fall offer the most reliable weather for outdoor events.
Outdoor events can be held in a driveway, backyard, in a cul-de-sac in your neighborhood, or in a park in your area. Permits are required if you want to close a cul-de-sac for a block party. Permits are free, and barricades/signage are available at no cost.
How much does a gathering cost?
The cost of a gathering varies but can be very inexpensive depending on your approach. Save money by hosting a potluck and asking neighbors to contribute supplies, like paper plates and cups, for the event. The City of Saratoga also provides a $300 Neighborhood Watch grant that can be used to help offset costs.
How do I get the word out about the event?
Drop off event flyers at each home in your neighborhood to make sure everyone knows about the party. Ask block captains and volunteers to help with this effort. The City offers a free event flyer template you can use. Send several emails to your neighbors as well to let them know about the event. Recruit your block captains to spread information through word of mouth as well.
What can I expect at the gathering?
Plan for about half of your neighbors to attend your gathering. Consider requesting RSVPs so you know how many people to expect at the event.
During the event, kick things off by reintroducing the Neighborhood Watch lead(s) and block captains, reviewing group boundaries and goals, and providing an opportunity for neighbors to meet each other. Name tags and an icebreaker activity are recommended!
Activities and games for children will help encourage families in the neighborhood to attend.
Neighborhood Security Cameras
Several Neighborhood Watch groups have opted to install security cameras as a neighborhood. Below are suggestions for groups that are interested in neighborhood cameras:
- Gauge interest. There are a lot of strong emotions surrounding security cameras and privacy concerns. Find out if your neighbors are supportive of neighborhood-owned and operated cameras. Conduct online polls, hold a meeting, go door to door to hear what your neighbors think. If it becomes a divisive issue, it may be more important to maintain the cohesiveness of the group than to install cameras.
- Develop the project. If there is support for neighborhood cameras, start developing the project scope. Identify camera locations (must be on private property, HOAs may apply for an encroachment permit to place cameras in public right-of-way), get permission to place cameras at proposed locations, research cameras and storage, identify who will have access to footage, and identify initial and ongoing expenses.
- Invite neighbors to contribute. Share the cost of the project by inviting neighbors to pitch in money to cover initial and ongoing costs. To ensure the ongoing success, you may want to ask neighbors to contribute enough funding to pay for up to 3 years of operational expenses. Consider whether you want to create a bank account for the group and/or establish a method for neighbors to contribute online.
- Go live! Install and launch your neighborhood camera system. Let the neighborhood know when installation is complete. Install signage to announce that your neighborhood is under surveillance. Register your cameras with law enforcement so footage can be requested to aid with investigations.