Don’t Recreate Policing With Our Community Watch

Don’t Recreate Policing With Our Community Watch

Quick tips for non-Black neighbors

The best way to protect your neighborhood is to invest in community building directly with neighbors.  Community watches often recreate the violent police state we are attempting to uproot, especially if we don’t organize thoughtfully. Here are a few tips to build community and an effective community watch. 

  • Doorknock your block and introduce yourself. 

Go to every house. The goal is to be known to all of your neighbors, not just those who were invited to organize.

  • Provide your contact info and your house number.

Make sure your block is well connected. If giving out your contact info to known neighbors makes you nervous, please question why you want to do community watch. If neighbors of color don’t share back, don’t be suspicious. You haven’t earned their trust. Ask if they have folks nearby to connect with and trust their answer. 

  • Be present and visible as a neighbor. 

If you have a porch, a stoop, or a big street-facing window, try to be visible several times per hour. Keep your lights on. Bad actors are less likely to come into a neighborhood that is present and active. Keep eyes on houses that are unable to do this themselves.

  • Disarm folks by engaging them. 

If you see someone you don’t recognize, say something simple like “Hey – you good?” Engage rather than attempting to scare, threaten, or make assumptions by reporting them. They might just be trying to get home. 

  • Document what you observe, but only report when something actually happens. 

The goal of community watch is to promote safety, not to recreate police surveillance and targeting. That first step is visibility and presence. The second is sharing information. 

Only report when and what has actually happened that poses a credible threat. Try to only share information that you’ve witnessed, or name the source if it’s second-hand. Try not to create panic by making judgments of what “seems suspicious.”

  • Send direct, plain language updates in one message. 

Provide only the factual information in a useful way: “Red Chevy truck, plates XXX-123, slowly headed south on Nicollet from 24th Street, 3 white men inside flashing automatic rifles. 12:31AM” That’s it. That’s the update. 

If there were no automatic rifles in that update, is it still a threat? Interrogate why or why not. 

You can access a digital version of this document and further resources at

Further Resources and Reading

Image designed by Micah Bazant with the Ella Baker Center in July 2013, for Night Out for Safety & Democracy, their community alternative to the police-sponsored event National Night Out.

You can access a digital version of this document and further resources at