Program History

For almost seventy years, the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) has been committed to the safety and security of America’s communities. The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) took crime prevention concepts a step further by making a national initiative – the National Neighborhood Watch Program. The program was developed in response to a multitude of requests from sheriffs and police chiefs across the country. Law enforcement leaders were looking for a crime prevention program to incorporate citizen involvement, and address the increasing number of burglaries taking place, especially in rural and suburban residential areas.

Funding was sought and obtained from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, and thus, the National Neighborhood Watch Program was born. The first two years of the program were devoted to disseminating information on the nature and volume of burglary, and providing information on how to secure residential property and make it less vulnerable to break-ins, also known as target hardening. From there, it evolved to promoting the establishment of ongoing local neighborhood watch groups where citizens could work in conjunction with their law enforcement agencies in an effort to reduce burglaries and other neighborhood crimes. The creation of “Boris the Burglar” arose as the symbol of crime prevention in neighborhoods.

Throughout the years, Neighborhood Watch has grown from an “extra eyes and ears” approach to crime prevention to a much more proactive, community-oriented endeavor. Neighborhood Watch groups are now incorporating activities that not only address crime prevention issues,but which also restore pride and unity to a neighborhood. It is not uncommon to see Neighborhood Watch groups participating in neighborhood cleanups and other activities which impact the quality of life for community residents.

In 2002, USA Freedom Corps was created under President Bush’s initiative to build a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility in the country. USAonWatch was established in partnership with the Department of Justice as an expansion of the Neighborhood Watch program to empower citizens to become directly involved in their community to prepare for all hazards. USAonWatch is one of five programs partners of Citizen Corps, a national effort to encourage citizen involvement. Following the hurricanes of 2005, a new initiative for emergency preparedness and service swept the country. Neighborhood Watch groups are a way for law enforcement and citizens to work together not only for disaster preparedness but for all hazards and encourage citizens to volunteer in there communities.