Back to Basics
Neighborhood Watch


Back to Basics; Neighborhood Watch

Every neighborhood should have one, and ideally, every block a Block Captain

One of the most grassroots and fundamental ways residents can assist local law enforcement in improving public safety is by the establishment of a neighborhood watch. And it's probably the most cost effective crime prevention system there is.

This is especially important in Los Angeles, where the budget is strained and so few sworn officers are charged with covering such a vast area.

The Sheriff's Department has had to eliminate many of its community policing programs because of the County Board of Supervisors' budget cuts.

But at LAPD we're lucky.

With the Mayor's leadership, our City Council, Police Commission and Department have all taken steps to ensure that the Senior Lead Officer (SLO) program is back on it's feet. LAPD's Senior Lead Officers are now deployed full time across the City, and each of the them has office space, a dedicated cell phone and answering services.

The SLOs are charged with supervising a geographically small Basic Car Area within a specific Division, often comprised of several neighborhoods, and are the principal liaison with the "typical" resident in a local community.

Over the last several years, some neighborhood watch groups lacking this liaison disbanded, while others managed to hang in there. But very few new groups were established.

Now that the SLOs have have the equipment, time and resources they need, we should be re-dedicating ourselves to helping them firm up existing groups, and bring new Neighborhood Watch and Block Captain programs to the communities.

SLO ... Senior Lead Officer

The Senior Lead Officer program is vital to community policing, because the SLO is often the main liaison for problem solving between the Department and the resident.

There are 168 SLOs across the City. Each of the 18 LAPD Divisions is subdivided into several Basic Car Areas, and your SLO supervises your neighborhood's Basic Car, and the officers who are assigned to it.

You'll want to find out from the LAPD Division that serves your area the name of your Senior Lead Officer and keep his or her cell phone number handy.

Then give him or her an introductory call.

NOTE: Each of LAPD's 18 community police stations has a Community Relations Office. The officers there will be happy to help you determine the phone number for your SLO.

Senior Lead Officers are the pivotal element in the LAPD's effort to prevent and deter local crime. SLOs provide the vital link for local problem solving, public safety, and quality of life issues.

Among other things Senior Lead Officers are responsible for:

Monitoring crime trends in their Basic Car Areas - since each Division has several of these, the SLO supervises a relatively small geographic region
Working with the Community-Police Advisory Board (C-PAB) and residents to develop goals to be accomplished through the efforts of all officers assigned to the Basic Car
Acting as liaisons with the Division's detectives in order to keep them informed of crime trends and special problems within the Basic Car Area

Continuous interaction between the police and the local resident is essential to enhancing the quality of life and deter crime within the neighborhoods. Senior Lead Officers take the lead in establishing and maintaining local community policing partnerships.

Senior Lead Officers regularly attend Neighborhood Watch meetings, and are happy to coordinate setting up new ones.

They are eager to serve the community.

Neighborhood Watch Program

The concept of Neighborhood Watch is the cornerstone of the LAPD’s crime prevention strategy. It enlists the active participation of residents, in cooperation with law enforcement, to reduce crime in communities throughout the city.

Any group can establish a Watch around any geographical unit: a block, apartment, park, commercial area, public housing complex, office building, etc. A few concerned residents, a community organization, or a law enforcement officer can spearhead the effort to organize a Neighborhood Watch.

Any community resident can join - young or old, single or married, renter or homeowner.

Members learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighborhood, and correctly report activities that raise their suspicions to the Department. Watch groups are not made up of vigilantes. These are people committed to being the extra eyes and ears LAPD needs for reporting crime and assisting neighbors.

They help build pride in a community.

The program educates community residents regarding their roles and responsibilities in the prevention of crime, and encourages them to take active measures in crime prevention, assisting the police in organizing the community into a cohesive unit working toward the goal of building a safer neighborhood.

Neighborhood Watch groups discuss neighborhood crime issues with the objective of developing solutions to local problems. Officers supply crime information to neighborhood watch organizations and instruct these groups in various crime prevention techniques.

Block Captains

In many areas, the continuity and success of the Neighborhood Watch program hinges on a person referred to as the Block Captain. The "Block Captain" is a community member who acts as a liaison between those who work and / or live in a particular area, and the officers assigned to serve there.

Through the Block Captain, and through neighborhood general meetings, this liaison is maintained with LAPD, often on an informal basis.

These citizens volunteers, who represent their particular block or neighborhood, pass along concerns and recommendations from their area to the Senior Lead Officer for handling. They also coordinate community meetings to facilitate problems solving efforts between their neighborhoods and the Department.

Getting Organized

When a group decides to form a Neighborhood Watch it can:

Contact the police department about local crime prevention, and help in training members about home security and reporting skills, and how to recognize local crime patterns
Select a coordinator and block captains who are responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members
Recruit members, keep up-to-date on new residents, and make special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people
Work with local government and law enforcement to put up Neighborhood Watch signs, usually after at least 50 percent of all households in a neighborhood are enrolled

For the most part Neighborhood Watch groups meet together once a month, and it's members maintain loose contact with each other in between.

We all can, and should, belong to (or start up) a Neighborhood Watch

As we said, you can call the
Community Relations Office at the LAPD Division that serves your area for the name of your Senior Lead Officer and his or her cell phone number.

The SLO for your Basic Car will be delighted to direct you to a Watch nearby, enlist you as a Block Captain, or help you get started on settling up your own community's new Neighborhood Watch.