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  • Writer's pictureOmar Pathare


Updated: Jun 27, 2021

Rapid urbanisation has seen high-rise buildings and sky scrapers sprout all along the city’s skyline. Need for space has seen vertical expansion and now these have become communities in themselves with many residents literally living under one roof.

Neighbourhoods are now linear rather than horizontally expansive. All amenities are enclosed in the quadrangle provided for these multi-storey building complexes, such as parking, children’s parks, jogging tracks and even swimming pools in some multi storeyed complexes. Walls have been built; tall, ornate entrance gates have been established with security guardhouses; front desks with manned guards and CCTV displays are now coming to fore in a bid to entice buyers with a lavish and private lifestyle.

Allowing the 'broken window' model

While all these provisions are in place and are kept functioning till all the given number of residential areas are filled up, thereafter the builder hands over these amenities to the residents surreptitiously. After a period of habitation in these premises the façade of a secure and private lifestyle slowing crumbles as the residents become aware that now these premises are to be maintained by them only. Apart from the administrative issues which crop up which lead to forming of society committees the issue of security is generally handled in a very dismissive manner, the involvement being at the most that at which cheapest rate do they get to hire a security guard.

As the residents settle into their regular routines and lifestyles the complexes then generally start moving towards the ‘broken window theory' model where even if maintenance is looked upon regularly but negligence creeps in as residents get ensconced in their homes and address any situation within these complexes only if it affects a majority of them. While it is their due right to enjoy their homes and their lifestyles the residents should also remember that the surroundings in which their homes are located are also a part of their responsibility. This brings us to the subject of neighbourhood watch which can be subtly weaved into the social fabric of these multi-storeyed building complexes.

Be good neighbours; protect each other

Neighbourhood watch is essentially achieved by residents looking out for suspicious activities and reporting them to the police. Visible surveillance is usually an effective deterrent on the perceptions and decision making of potential offenders. If offenders are aware of the likelihood of local residents reporting suspicious behaviour and they perceive that this reporting is on the increase they will definitely weigh their chances of being caught before attempting a criminal act in such a place.

Neighbourhood watch also will lead to reduction of crime through reducing the opportunities for crime. These include checking up on neighbour’s premises by residents when they are away, showing signs of occupancy or movement around closed flats, regular and spot checks by the security guards on levels where there are locked or unoccupied flats. Residents may also involve relatives to check upon their flats when they are out, so that the flat shows signs of occupancy at irregular intervals which also deters criminals by the fear of being caught in the act.

Putting down guidelines

Informal social control can be achieved by setting down guidelines by the residents as to the behavioural norms which are acceptable in these premises. Neighbourhood watches might also serve to increase the flow of useful information from the public to the police. Increase in information about suspicious activity or events or crime in progress might lead to greater number of arrests and result in reduction of crime by breaking down the criminal’s ability to commit crimes. Marking of property may lead to reduction of crime as the criminal will find it hard to dispose off such property without the increased risk of discovery and detection. Home security surveys might lead to a reduction in crime as a result of increasing the difficulty level of a criminal to enter the property.

Neighbourhood watch schemes should essentially consist of three components, mainly:

- Neighbourhood watch.

- Property marking.

- Security surveys.

All the above components should dwell upon the following types of crimes:

- Crimes against residents.

- Crimes against dwellings.

- Other crimes occurring in the residential areas (streets and neighbourhood).

The Five Steps to Building a Successful Neighbourhood Watch:

1. Recruit and organise as many neighbours as possible.

2. Contact a security consultant or a law enforcement agency and schedule a meeting.

3. Discuss community concerns and develop an action plan.

4. Hold regular meetings and train on relevant skills.

5. Implement a phone tree and steps to act.

Residents of building complexes actively come together for festivals and occasions like Independence Day and Republic day for community building as well as bonding. The residents should actively consider and act upon forming Neighbourhood Watch which proactively helps in deterring and detecting criminal activity as well as denying criminal elements to make an entry into their exclusive space of freedom and privacy.

Housing societies and complexes may please contact FORTIFY - - to get one-on-one consultation about how to inculcate a 'neighbourhood watch' for a safe neighbourhood.

- Lt. Col. Omar S. Pathare (retd), Founder, Fortify Security Consulting

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