As a member of your homeowners’ association’s (HOA’s) board of directors, fostering a safe and secure environment should always be a top priority. Maintaining a secure community is a group effort, and everybody has a role in preserving the place they call home. While an HOA can never guarantee total protection, there are things you can do to increase neighborhood awareness and promote a safer environment; here are six.
1. Create a neighborhood watch committee.
By definition, a neighborhood watch committee typically focuses on observation and awareness as a means of preventing crime. This civilian-led, homeowner-staffed group may do things like patrol the neighborhood, draft and share safety tips with residents, monitor the neighborhood for suspicious activity, and contact the local police department to report any possible crimes.
With no legal authority to enact consequences, a neighborhood watch committee isn’t a replacement for law enforcement. However, it does allow residents to feel safer in their homes. In fact, the National Institute of Justice estimates that the presence of a neighborhood watch can reduce crime by up to 16%. A necessary partner, your local law enforcement can provide cooperation and information. Law enforcement representatives might even be willing to attend committee meetings.
2. Host a National Night Out event.
National Night Out (NNO) was founded almost 40 years ago by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW). It’s an annual event to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Communities host various events, including parades, movie nights, block parties, potlucks, and more, in partnership with local officials and agencies. Depending on your state, it’s celebrated either the first Tuesday in August or the first Tuesday in October, a time of the year when the weather is typically nice for outdoor gatherings.
Because NNO enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement, provides educational opportunities, and brings back a true sense of community, you should consider getting involved. Planning an NNO event is simple—and rewarding. Find out when it’s happening in your state, register with NATW, recruit volunteers to help, and reach out to emergency responders for safety demonstrations and information sessions.
3. Establish connections with neighboring communities.
It’s true: there really is safety in numbers. Get to know board members and active residents in adjacent neighborhoods and share information with them. Knowing about activities, animal sightings, events, or a crime in nearby communities can help you alert your residents to get out, get involved, and take precautions, if necessary.
4. Keep residents informed.
Communication might be the single most important tool available to board members for promoting transparency, security, and harmony within an HOA. Effective communication is key in allowing residents to feel comfortable in their surroundings and have peace of mind when they go to sleep. To keep residents in-the-know, consider:
- Including an ongoing crime and safety report in your newsletter.
- Sharing information through your social media channels or community app.
- Updating your community website with safety alerts and tips.
- Sharing emergency contact numbers and encouraging people to report suspicious activity.
5. Maintain a clean and orderly neighborhood.
Preserve the community grounds and ensure that common areas don’t have overgrown grass and unkempt landscaping. When a property looks like it's not taken care of, it leaves the community open to trespassing and crime. Check your governing documents to ensure you’re following all proper protocols and make an effort to keep neighborhood grounds tidy. There are several ideas, including:
- Maintain landscaping: trim trees, cut grass, tend to garden beds.
- Pick up trash: take a bag with you to gather trash on a walk.
- Clean exterior surfaces: power wash sidewalks and parking areas.
6. Proactively prepare for emergencies.
As a board member, it’s your duty to ensure the community is prepared to handle anything that comes its way—including emergency and disaster situations. Whether it’s a natural or manmade disaster, a carefully crafted emergency action plan is essential in helping your community effectively respond to and manage a situation. When your community is prepared for and can respond appropriately to an emergency, you limit the possibility of property and people being vulnerable to theft, physical injury, and other negative consequences.
Unfortunately, the reality is that most communities don’t have a response protocol or plan for residents. Identify your community’s risks and needs, form an emergency response committee to construct the plan, stick to a budget, and communicate the plan to residents.
Find Ways to Improve Home Security
No matter how safe your neighborhood may seem, your property may be a prime target for break-ins, theft, and vandalism. To help keep the community secure, make efforts to safeguard your home, too. Read our article, “6 Ways to Improve Home Security,” for tips to protect your property and effectively curb crime in your community.