What is a Town Watch?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 12 February 2020
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A town watch is a community organization of volunteers who patrol a town to increase public safety. Volunteers may wear uniforms or badges to make them easy to identify when members of the public need assistance, and they use radios or cell phones to communicate with police in the event of an emergency situation. This volunteer model is similar to that seen with a neighborhood watch, except that instead of passively remaining indoors and keeping an eye on the community, people actively walk the streets to identify safety situations and criminal activity.

Members of a town watch can include adults and youths. They typically attend an orientation to get information about how to operate safely and efficiently and take turns on official watches, where they are on duty and must patrol the town. People may have a specific beat they walk in or could travel throughout the town, depending on its size and how the town watch organizes its members. If people cannot fulfill their duties, they need to find a replacement to handle their assigned times.


In addition to offering general patrols, a town watch may coordinate a safety corridor. Members of the organization can station themselves near schools to make sure children make their way home safely, and can be available at parties and other events to look after the safety of attendees. This can relieve police from these duties, allowing them to focus on other tasks and respond if the town watch identifies a need for them. Colleges and universities may have their own volunteer watch groups who coordinate with members to keep college students safe.

Members of the town watch can patrol at night or during the day, and usually vary their routes to make sure their patrols remain random. This makes it harder to commit crime, as criminals will be aware that members of the watch could encounter them at any time. People can increase patrols by special request or in response to a scheduled event if there are concerns about the possibility for an uptick in criminal activity.

People who want to form an organization in their community should start by meeting with the local police force. Police can help people coordinate meetings and orientations and may also be able to point civilians in the direction of grants and other assistance. It may also be possible to join a national organization of town watches to access their signage and educational materials.


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