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Is a "neighborhood watch" effective against crime?

Are “neighborhood watches” effective against crime?
In the 1970s, several women in the Northern Virginia suburb where I lived were attacked on our streets, and several houses were burglarized. Pressing doorbells I gathered about 40 neighbors in our house and two police officers instructed us on how to organize a neighborhood watch.
We “patrolled” the streets, each neighbor once a week for two hours. Most people didn’t volunteer for night shifts, so my husband and I did. While our youngest son slept in the back seat of the car, it was our time to chat. Some neighbors went in groups of two or more to visit with each other. Cell phones weren’t available then, so we took turns using a two-way radio to get the police, if necessary.
Soon, one of our patrolling neighbors saw two individuals running with bags, in the opposite direction of an area that had a bank. In short, it was a bank robbery, and the police was able to apprehend the robbers. The bank gave us a $10,000 reward, which we used to install free-standing signs in every corner to warn criminals they were being watched; to purchase better two-way radios; magnetized rubber signs to put on our cars, a potent flashlight, and I forgot what else. (Champagne?) There was no email then, so we started a leaflet to share information and experiences.
All criminal activity stopped cold. We cut down on the “patrolling,” hours. Evidently the signs and occasional patrolling car was enough to discourage crime. Sixteen years later we moved away, having had not a single criminal incident since we had started our “watch.” Not so in other neighborhoods around us without one.
We moved to Cambridge, MA in 1992. Criminal incidents were not uncommon. Among others, our neighbor next door, a young woman, was attacked by two young men. The house across the street from ours was burglarized. I posted notices on lampposts and pressed doorbells calling for a meeting. The victimized young woman offered her house. Not everybody showed up. Two police officers gave us a presentation. Sadly, only two neighbors volunteered. With the 30 or so emails addresses that I gathered we could get in touch, and not only for crime issues but for practical advice and news. About half of the neighbors have since moved out, and several have passed.
In the last few years, my husband and I have been in Cambridge MA only for brief periods, so it hasn’t been practical for me to activate more neighborhood participation. It would be very nice if someone else would start it now that we are experiencing a surge in crime, and of course I’m very willing to volunteer when I find myself in Cambridge.
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