The Effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch: A Systematic Review

Additional Info

  • Authors: Trevor Bennett, David Farrington, Katy Holloway
  • Published Date: 2008-12-31
  • Coordinating groups: Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Protocol, Review, User abstract
  • Volume: 4
  • Issue nr: 18
  • Category Image: Category Image


The primary aim of this review is to assess the effectiveness of neighborhood watch in reducing crime.Neighborhood watch sometimes comprises a stand-alone scheme and sometimes includes additional program elements. The most common combination of program elements is the ‘big three’ (neighborhood watch, property marking and security surveys). Studies were selected for inclusion in the review if they were based on a watch scheme either alone or in combination with any of the other ‘big three’ elements.
 

Neighborhood watch sometimes comprises a stand-alone scheme and sometimes includes additional program elements. The most common combination of program elements is the ‘big three’ (neighborhood watch, property marking and security surveys). Studies were selected for inclusion in the review if they were based on a watch scheme either alone or in combination with any of the other ‘big three’ elements. The main quality control was that the studies should be based on random allocation or a pre-post test design with a comparison area.
 

Studies were identified by searching 11 electronic databases. In addition, studies were sought using on-line library catalogues, literature reviews, lists of references, and published bibliographies. Leading researchers in the field were also contacted when there was a particular need to do so.
 

The narrative review was based on 19 studies (covering 43 evaluations) and the meta-analysis was based on 12 studies (covering 18 evaluations). The data used included police-recorded crimes and self-reported victimizations.
 

The main finding of the narrative review was that the majority of the schemes evaluated indicated that neighborhood watch was effective in reducing crime. The main finding of the meta-analysis was that the weighted mean odds ratio for all studies combined was 1.19 using the fixed effects method and 1.36 using the random effects method. The results of both methods show that neighborhood watch was associated with a reduction in crime of between 16 per cent and 26 per cent.
 

This review concludes that neighborhood watch is associated with a reduction in crime.
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