Home and Property
June 28, 2023
Crime Prevention
Can security patrols alone prevent crimes in residential areas?

Can security patrols alone prevent crimes in residential areas?

Preventing crime is more about removing the opportunity, rather than hiring costly private security firms to do residential street patrols.

By Bambi Gordon, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Victoria

When visiting local communities, particularly in new estates, I’m often asked if there is value in paying for a private security firm to do nightly patrols to prevent crimes happening.

A recent article in the Herald Sun, “Melbourne crime: Private security firms patrol streets to stop residential burglaries” highlighted the use of private security patrols in some residential areas across Melbourne, including housing estates in the north-west. It was disappointing on a number of levels.

When discussing residential security patrols, there are some important things to consider:

  • There is substantial cost in hiring security patrols;
  • Patrols are usually not that effective in preventing crime;
  • Residents tend to rely upon security patrols as a silver-bullet in deterring and preventing crime and may become lackadaisical in their own security measures; and
  • The simple existence of patrols contributes to people’s fear.

The article referred to a woman in a security-patrolled estate whose had items stolen from her car outside her home. And that’s not surprising. The security car doesn’t park outside a single house – by nature they are mobile around the estate. A crook can wait until the patrol passes by and will then have time to check for unlocked cars or houses.

In this instance the victim had also left items – including a purse – in the car which will have been a temptation to the crook.

We know that in some other countries Neighbourhood Watch groups form their own street-based patrols. Again – this adds to people’s fear and anxiety, and it puts those members at risk of being physically hurt. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here.

If you live in an area where there has been an increase in crime or believe that your estate is vulnerable to thefts and break-ins, there are simple, inexpensive things that you can do to reduce the risk of it happening to you:

  • Removing the opportunity for crime – ensure that the crook is presented with a locked car, a locked house (even when you are at home), an empty vehicle, a sensor light, potentially an alarm. We can deter these crooks by making every access point unattainable and removing temptation. Taking our How Safe Is My House quiz, can help you learn where your home might be vulnerable and simple ways to improve security.
  • Imagine if every resident watched out for each other? If you recognised your neighbours, could spot suspicious activity in your street and made a point of sharing crime prevention tactics with them (we have heaps of tips on our website).
  • Staying alert and aware of the potential of crime and being willing to report the smallest incident or concern immediately to Triple Zero (000) if it is happening now or the Police Assistance Line (131 444) if already occurred.
  • If there are several neighbours in your area that share the same concerns about crime and safety, consider starting a Neighbourhood Watch group.

By all means, if a group of neighbours wants to fund private patrols for extra peace of mind, do so. But remember that the moment the patrol leaves your street, you are no longer protected – unless you remove every opportunity. Patrols can be one tactic in a suite of crime prevention measures. But they’re not the only solution.

Get Police Assistance

For all emergencies and immediate Police assistance
Call: 000
To report non-urgent crimes or events 24 hours a day
Call: 131 444
To report information about a crime contact Crime Stoppers on
1800 333 000

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Neighbourhood Watch Victoria acknowledges the 38 mobs, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live, and gather as employees and volunteers. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

At Neighbourhood Watch, we believe everyone has the right to feel safe and welcome. We are committed to ensuring diversity, inclusion and equity are embedded throughout our organisation – in the work we do, the services we deliver and among our staff, volunteers, and the communities we work with.