The concept of neighbourhood watch started in 1972 in the USA. By the 1980`s Canadian neighbourhoods started implementing watches. Technology at the time was pen-and-paper sign-up lists. People had to physically canvas their neighbours and it was a very manual process of keeping residents informed of any crime trends. With the dawn of the internet, some neighbourhood watches took to social media to administer their watches. Althought better than pen-and-paper, social media sites tend to have many posts not related to neighbourhood watch.
Neighbourhood Protect website started in 2016 in Oshawa as a result of several cars being broken into. Neighbours spoke to some of their other neighbours but no one was sure who all had cameras or if cars on neighbouring streets were also entered. Facebook was considered but it was vague in finding nearby neighbourhood watches, if any, and ones that were found had a lot of other non-relevant content posted amongst actual neighbourhood watch posts. Developing a website specific to neighbourhood watch was the alternative. Neighbours are now much more organized and prepare video for police in a more timely manner.
The website is a neighbourhood watch administration tool. It has no affiliation or endorsement from any government or police agencies. It is a private sector application like Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
Currently, Neighbourhood Protect serves Canadian residents only.What is involved if I do join Neighbourhood Protect?
If you are the first person in your neighbourhood to join, you will also define the neighbourhood watch name and boundaries. Then you will speak to the neighbours that you already talk to and tell them about the website, the referral process. Each neighbour can refer their neighbours that they talk to the same way you will thereby eliminating the need for a large door-to-door canvas.
If/when a crime or suspicious event happens near your home, post it on the website. Include images if you have security cameras. Your registered neighbours will automatically receive an email or text message and be kept up to date of what is happening in the neighbourhood. These neighbours can then check their security cameras and post any images related to event, keeping everyone informed. Fairly simple.
If you find the website useful, then you can tell friends and family living in other neighbourhoods/cities about the website so that they can form their own neighbourhood watch. Another way of referring members.
Their is no patrolling and it is not recommended to engage a perpetrator as they could assault you. Safety is most important. There are also potential criminal and civil risks to engaging a perpetrator if a physical confrontation were to occur. We are simply eyes and ears for the police and for each other.Why does the website Sign-up page ask for Name, Address and Phone Along with Email?
Email is how the website usually communicates with its members. Name, address and phone number along with cameras potentially helps the police if they need to do follow-up in a neighbourhood. It allows them to quickly know who has cameras and where they live relative to the crime scene and then be able to contact those people if requied.How should neighbourhood boundaries be defined?
Depending on housing density, boundaries should contain no more than between 100-200 houses (this is a guide only as each neighbourhood can be unique). Too large of an area will cause residents on the other side of the area to receive notifications but will likely not be affected by the perpetrator or even have them on camera. The All page will allow nearby neighbourhoods to see all activity if the perpetrator does travel over a larger area. As few as 5-10 houses can already make for an effective NW.
Choose large streets, changes in demographics (ie residential to commercial) and natural barriers (ie. rivers/creeks, parks, greenspace, etc.) as your neighbourhood boundaries. Tips to determine your neighbourhood:
- The route you take if you go for a walk with your spouse
- The route you take if you walk your dog
- If you had to physically canvas your neighbours, the streets that you would cover
An example from Facebook of what neighbourhood watch (NW) should not be:
This example shows where NW have grown past 500 members into the thousands. With so many members in a NW, it might no longer function properly. With some of these NW reporting over 10+ posts per day it could be time consuming to keep up with that and administer. Also, how relevant would these 10+/day posts be? Would the police even have the resources or interest in sifting through this many posts on a daily basis?
This is why a NW should be restricted to about 100-200 homes. Beyond that may cause the NW to become too busy and dilute the relevance of the posts.Can we still have a traditional neighbourhood watch with canvassing?
Yes. Neighbourhood Protect is only an administration and communication tool. How you use the tool is up to you. The Refer page has printable business card size forms that you can print off and hand out to neighbours. Instead of pen-and-paper sign-up forms, the website has a sign-up form that new members will use.
The website by default will make the first person to define a neighbourhood a captain. Captains have the ability to delete inappropriate posts.How do we get neighbourhood signs and window stickers?
Contact your local police once you have an established NW. They will then help arrange for for signs and stickers or advise you of any other criteria that needs to be met first.Who maintains my profile information?
You alone do. No one else can edit your profile. Therefore, you are also responsible for updating your cell phone number if it changes or if you add cameras to your house/business.
If you move, update your neighbourhood information to the new neighbourhood.How do I know what crimes are happening in nearby neighbourhoods?
The website provides police crime maps (if they exist from your police service) that you can view to get a quick overview. You can then view a list of all registered neighbhourhood watches to see what activity they have reported and any images they posted, sorted by date. Together, this will allow you to quickly get an idea of any criminals and suspicious vehicles that could come into your neighbourhood.As other neighbours refer members how do I know who is all in my neighbourhood watch?
There is a member`s list page that provides name, street and if they have cameras. Contact information is private and for police follow-up only.Can I view member lists in other neighbourhoods?
No. You can only view your neighbourhood member list. You can view any crime posts from any neighbourhood.Is there a smartphone app?
No. Apps are specific to hardware (iPhone, Android phones, Blackberry, etc.) which requires separate development for each platform. Neighbourhood Protect is purely web-based which means it runs on any platform (iPhone, Mac, Android, PC, tablets, Blackberry, etc.). This website is frequently updated with new features which would require updating each app (if they existed) and delay these new features. Once you log into the website, it would function identically to an app so the only purpose to an app is to have an icon on your screen to click to log in.
Smartphone apps also have the ability to access your location, contacts and other features if you are not careful with permissions. A website cannot access any features on your phone, providing another potential level of security.Are there any potential security/privacy issues with this website?
Any website has the potential for a hack. The most recent public one was with Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica scandal where 87 million user accounts were accessed. Neighbourhood Protect only collects basic contact information as seen on the Sign-up Page. There is no other information collected about its users. This information has been publically available since the invention of the telephone and the phone book. With the internet, the phone book has become canada411.ca and 411.ca. Since this basic information is already publicly available, there would be nothing gained from hacking this website.
Additionally, many people also use Facebook and LinkedIn. Those websites contain more personal information about their users than basic contact information.Close