The best idea we have heard for making a home safer is to throw a party — a Neighborhood Watch block party — and invite the police.

Not only does this beat sitting on a darkened porch with a baseball bat, just waiting for someone to try to steal your stuff, this approach actually is shown to help curb the problem before someone ever sets foot on your property.

National Neighborhood Watch reports all such groups share one foundational idea “that bringing community members together to re-establish control of their neighborhoods promotes an increased quality of life and reduces the crime rate in that area.”

This works as a modern response to changing patterns of how we live. Researchers cited by the national group note “if social disorganization is the problem and if traditional agents of social control no longer are performing adequately, we need … to restore a ‘sense of neighborhood.’”

And what does that look like?

Well, we have seen it happen that when neighbors make a point to get to know one another and share in some common events, they form bonds and begin to function more like families. In short order, neighbors start helping neighbors instinctively — noticing when a garage door has been left open, when papers or mail are piling up, or when an unfamiliar vehicle is in the driveway.

Neighbors who get to know each other more like families will develop a sixth sense for when to get involved, check on their neighbor or call police.

But even those who prefer a more distant relationship can help. Simply participating in organized watch programs creates a sense of community that is the opposite of what a would-be criminal wants.

These programs can include free training in crime prevention and how to keep police informed of criminal and suspicious activity in the neighborhood. They also can involve fun block parties where new friendships are formed.

The research says these efforts, at their core, decrease opportunities for criminals to commit crime because the neighbors are visibly working together and showing a united front.

In St. Joseph, members of the police Crime Prevention Unit are available to assist anyone wanting to learn how to start a Neighborhood Watch group that can focus on crime, but also on street lighting, vacant buildings and other concerns. For more information, call 816-236-1473 or visit the police web site at