The foundation for creating and maintaining neighborhood crime prevention groups (Community Watch) is based on the assumption that a group of people in the neighborhood can come together to reestablish informal control, and can thereby increase the quality of life and reduce the crime rate in the neighborhood. As Rosenbaum (1988) put it ". . . if social disorganization is the problem and if traditional agents of social control no longer are performing adequately, we need to find alternative ways to strengthen informal social control and to restore a 'sense of neighborhood'". From the earliest attempts to deal with the neighborhood structure as it relates to crime (through the Chicago Area Project of the early 1900s) to modern attempts at neighborhood crime prevention, collective action by residents -- generally through a Neighborhood Watch -- has been proposed as a strategy for dealing with the erosion of informal control and rising crime (Greenberg, Rohe, and Williams, 1985).
Neighborhood Crime Prevention is based on the objective of removing opportunities for people to commit crime rather than attempting to change an offender or motivation. Early attempts at neighborhood crime prevention produced a variety of effective and not-so-effective programs. Jacobs (1961) proposed that more and wider sidewalks would reduce crime by increasing social interaction and thus increasing the observation of the neighborhood.
Today the Community Watch program has evolved and grown into an effective means of crime control and neighborhood cohesiveness. While not all of the programs in place today go by the same name, they all accomplish the same goal - to bring the neighborhood together to fight crime. Minor (2001), wrote "today Neighborhood Watch programs have taken on different names and forms-such as crime watch, block watch, and citizens on patrol. Regardless of the name it goes by, it is a neighborhood-based program that is effective in deterring crime. Neighborhood is the key to maintaining successful relationships."