In my area, there are several neighborhood watch programs that have had varying degrees of success.
For a neighborhood watch to succeed, you need several (5+) citizens who are willing to attend all the meetings and plan the group’s activities. Support from the municipal government might help, but it is not necessary, nor is it enough for your group to succeed.
Here are some activities that the group has done which have made a positive impact:
Hold regular meetings where a representative of the local police department is present. Use this opportunity to inform the police officer of drug-dealing hotspots so they can be patrolled with greater frequency. Also use this opportunity to have the police inform citizens of the proper procedure for calling the police, and the situations where calling the police is and isn’t appropriate. This will make residents more comfortable with calling the police and keeping closer tabs on drug dealers.
If there is a drug-dealing hotspot, you can have citizens sit outside on lawn chairs in the evening and write down the license plates of everyone who stops there. This is very effective because the attention is enough to get the drug dealers to move elsewhere. We never had a problem with harassment or retaliation from this, but it is always a possibility.
When there is a major crime (such as a murder) in the neighborhood, call a special meeting to encourage police to investigate the crime. Use this as a “talking point” to advocate for more patrolling of drug dealing hotspots (the usual cause of murders).
If there is a series of break-ins in an area, notify the citizens in the area so they can keep an eye out for the burglar. (This may or may not result in the burglar being caught.)
A “national night out” event is a good way to get started, but by itself it isn’t going to do anything about crime.
Holding regular neighborhood dog-walks can make residents feel more confident about walking around the neighborhood, which will decrease drug dealing.
If you do not have a municipal police department and must rely on the county police, safety will probably suffer because policemen who patrol a wide area can’t keep tabs on the local troublemakers and drug dealing patterns. In this case, it’s probably time to convince your local government to hire off-duty police officers to provide community policing.
Also, make sure that non-English speakers feel comfortable at your meetings.