[This post is the first of a series for the article: Neighborhood Crimebusters’ Web Based Community.]
Start a Neighborhood Crime Watch group
One of the best ways to improve the level of security around your home and your neighborhood is by getting to know your neighbors. A lot of community Neighborhood Crime Watch (NCW) groups have been formed and they have gone a long way in preventing crimes and also in helping the police identify and track down criminals. If the security around your home has been something on your mind, it is very likely that your neighbors are thinking the same too.
You can get started by meeting some of your neighbors and talking about it. You can also seek help from your local law enforcement. You should be able to start an NCW group by holding a meeting with your neighbors. Having some representatives from the police department would add a lot of weight to the effort.
Web based community – Staying connected
But how do you really keep in touch with your neighbors? How do you keep each other informed about what’s happening around you?
That is where a web based community group comes to use. You can easily setup an online group on Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc. These are free, and you can invite your neighbors to sign up.
Neighborhood Web Portal
A Yahoo group, for example, serves many purposes. It can be your neighborhood mailing list; it is easy to send an email to all your neighbors without having to maintain a mailing list of your own. The group mailing list is available to everyone in the group, and it also allows each member to update their email address in the group. This makes it very easy to maintain an up to date mailing list.
All mails sent to the group are stored as messages on the group home page. You can always come here to view messages if you have deleted the emails you received from the group. This also serves as a way to document all the happenings around the neighborhood, so that the police can make use of it in pursuing any crime.
The group portal also allows you to store files, web links, pictures and pieces of information in the form of a database. The database is a particularly useful feature. It lets you create customizable tables. You can easily create a “Neighborhood Roster” with people’s names, address, emergency contact information, etc. By letting people update their own entries, the entire group will have one place to go and find contact information for others in the group.
Another great advantage of using the group mailing list is that you can set up a mail filter in your own account that sends you an alert (like an SMS message), whenever someone posts a message to the group. For example, if your neighbor wanted to alert everyone about a suspicious guy driving around, he could post a message saying “Suspicious car in front of house #123,” and everyone would get that email, and you would also get a quick alert SMS on your cell phone.
Besides using the group for alerting everyone, the group can also use this as forum for discussing and debating about things you want to do in the neighborhood to make it safer. If installing security cameras is one of the ideas, then this would be a great place to make a proposal, present some available options, discuss costs, and any other thoughts or concerns that everyone may have.
My NCW group has used a Yahoo Group very effectively for several years and it has proved to be a great tool.
[Next post in the article: Create A Web Group.]