Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

What's the general attitude anarchists have of neighborhood/community watch organizations?

+1 vote
In my experience, neighborhood watch programs are really nothing more than narcs, off-duty police, superiority-complex-ridden people that try to be police, and then the occasional person who just wants to make sure no one is being harmed. It's this last group of people that give me hope for watches, and I think community watches can fit nicely with anarchism; it's volunteer, there are different watchers every night (or week or whatever), and no one has authority over others. The Highway Helpers in Iowa and other states are slightly reminiscent of this organization (volunteers drive around the highways in trucks with car-repair equipment and help anyone in need, free of charge). I can easily see some anarchist societies having such organizations (people patrolling to make sure no one is harming another or being harmed), and I have heard Christiania has similar coordination among residents, although I can't confirm this.
But with incidents like that of the recent Trayvon Martin shooting and many others like it, there's legitimate concern regarding these watches.
On top of the original question, what do all of you think?
asked Apr 24, 2012 by anonymous
Don't forget - a neighborhood might need a fire watch, a medical watch, a kiddy watch...  a garden watch in freezing weather if folks are away...  there are a lot of negative connotations because of the way it gets used.  That doesn't keep us from using it for constructive purposes...  Old folk hasn't been seen in a few days?  Did s/he fall down and get hurt?

2 Answers

+4 votes
I mean, as of right now, the term "neighborhood watch" carries a lot of baggage - usually that of property owners, middle-class professionals, and small entrepreneurs banding together to keep certain elements out of their neighborhood. This usually translates to harassing poor people, young people, and people of color (and especially combinations of the three).

But the organizational structure is plenty anarchistic /in theory/, sure. It's non-hierarchical and based on mutual aid. The problem is the context in which it occurs.
answered Apr 25, 2012 by Rice Boy (10,100 points)
To clarify, when I say that "the organizational structure is plenty anarchistic", I mean it in the sense that you could use a similar organizational structure for wildly different things, such as the ones illustrated in Asker's comment - CopWatch, community defense committees, emergency response networks, etc.

The Neighborhood Watch, as it exists today, is obviously totally incompatible with any kind of anarchist society or organizing, but that much should be obvious since they're basically amateur cops.
+2 votes
To offer an alternative - if not very well thought out - answer:

I can't really imagine how a neighborhood watch could ever be anything but a threat to us, much less a helpful aspect of an 'anarchist society.'  It seems to me that even if the form a neighborhood watch took were totally inclusive, participatory, and whatever, that wouldn't matter. There are plenty of organizations that work like that, (rotary clubs, alcoholics anonymous, even some workplaces) but I would never think to link those organizations to the anarchist project. In each case their purpose is opposed to mine or at least unrelated.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of a neighborhood watch is surveillance: they try to make sure that any crime that occurs in a certain area is observed, so that it will be easier for the police to deal with it.  The assumption is that the neighborhood watch somehow has the ability to determine what behaviors are appropriate within a certain area (a side note: what the fuck is a neighborhood?).  

In a situation where there are police available, people who do this are straight up snitches. In a situation without police, I guess they would simply be nosy assholes.  I certainly can't think of any stateless group I have read about where people thought that one of their biggest problems is that people are committing crimes without being observed.
answered Apr 25, 2012 by asker (9,280 points)
To complicate this, I can think of some situations where we might want to organize in a *somewhat* analogous way, given the reality that right now we live in a world with lots of enemies.  For instance, copwatch, neighborhood defense committees, barricades -- things that might help us keep police out of places...
...