Neighbourhood watch (NW) schemes exist in many European countries on a national, regional, and local level. They are usually privately-organized associations or groups. Some of them are large nation-wide organizations with a network of local chapters serving hundreds of thousands or even millions of households, others are local groups serving only a few hundred citizens.
NW schemes aim to contribute to citizens’ safe living in a number of ways including but not limited to disseminating information on crimes in the neighbourhood and advising members about how to protect themselves, their homes and their neighbours against burglaries and bodily attacks by criminals. Some NW schemes have extended scopes of activities caring for disadvantaged groups such as the aged, the homeless, children, alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes etc.
An important element in NW schemes’ day-to-day activities is cooperation with the local police. Contrary to the image of NW as vigilante groups of armed citizens patrolling the streets at night prevailing in some countries, all NW schemes encompassed by this survey (EUNWA members) strictly adhere to local law and international principles of human rights in cooperating and communicating with local and national police, crime prevention forces, communities and municipal authorities.