Citizen Involvement Training

“Having a decent neighborhood is not a right. It's a responsibility.”
John H. Campbell

Tree-lined Neighborhood Citizen Involvement Training teaches neighbors how they can act directly, as well as in concert with local government, to repair impacted communities and sustain safe and livable neighborhoods. As a community policing tool, Citizen Involvement Training helps provide a bridge to the type of community involvement needed to ensure the long-term viability of problem solving efforts.

The course is typically taught in two very different settings: 1) as a "train-the-teacher" seminar for neighborhood outreach organizers and police officers, and 2) as a direct training to citizen groups. The dynamics of the seminar vary significantly depending on the chosen group. Most courses we teach on this topic are highly tailored to the audience and concerns at hand. Because of the need to tailor this type of course, it is crucial to discuss specific needs in advance of presenting the seminar.

The training delivers two important messages: 1) that responsible citizenship is the long-term solution to achieving a sustainable, healthy community; and 2) that there are a host of accessible, appropriate techniques available to stop the cycles of apathy, fear, and hostility that enable illegal drugs, violence, gang activity, and other crimes to flourish. The course content is based on 12 years of organizing and community policing expertise and training. It provides critical insight into the difference between the idea of citizen involvement and the reality of making it work.

The original version of this course was taught over a decade ago as a means to improve organizing efforts against drug houses in a single neighborhood. Since then, variations of the course have been presented to public housing residents, police officers, native Alaskan villagers, high school students, and general residents of communities in many jurisdictions.


The training follows the format shown below, with variations in emphasis and timing depending on the audience.

  1. Introduction: The power of community involvement. During this session, we build the motivation for the day by showing participants the value and personal benefit of being involved in building the strength of their community. We'll go over why it's important, the potential benefits, and examples of successes. We will review the characteristics of community involvement, common misconceptions, and insights into the unique powers of a neighbor. To be effective, the training must pull hard at the underlying reasons that neighbors are not more involved today. These reasons include confusion about their role, misperception of their role, resentment toward a "system" that doesn't seem to work as expected, alienation from the value of creating geographic community, and many other factors beyond basic skills and knowledge issues.
  2. Building neighborhood "immunity:"  Overcoming barriers to involvement. The first and greatest barrier to neighborhood-based solutions is that the community in question is often a "neighborhood" in name only -- while neighbors may live next door to each other, they have little experience interacting constructively. During this section, we'll cover a sort of "How to be a Neighbor 101." These are tools and techniques that lay the necessary foundation for living in a neighborhood that is naturally crime resistant. These are old-fashioned approaches that every neighbor can apply today, regardless of whether there is an immediate problem to be solved.
  3. Leadership dynamics in a neighborhood setting. Unlike the diagramed, hierarchical structure of law enforcement, neighborhood organizing structures are very fluid and rarely easy to chart beyond being able to identify a few people who commonly take the lead. This section will look at common distributions of workload in an organizing setting and describe the typical characteristics of neighborhood leadership. The basic definition of leadership and where leaders come from will be a cornerstone: a leader is a person who 1) decides to lead, 2) is able to motivate others to act as well, and 3) does so. The point must be brought out that, in the context of neighborhood activism, titles are not required and there is no set limit to the number of leaders.
  4. The personal risk and personal safety of organizing. Organizing neighbors to stop chronic crime problems involves a degree of risk to one's personal safety. Understanding the risk, and becoming aware of ways to reduce it, are crucial to creating an environment where people are willing to act at all. This section will address some of those risks, examine methods for managing the level of risk, and offer a number of ideas for minimizing (but not alleviating altogether) the possibility of retaliation.
  5. Problem solving: Sample skills and techniques. During this segment we will look at specific examples of individual actions that neighbors can take and specific skills that neighbors should have (e.g., how to recognize a problem). Within each example we illustrate how neighborhood organizing plays the critical role: that almost every action a neighbor takes has far more effect if other neighbors are organized and encouraged to take similar action. The following are examples of skills and techniques that we will cover:
    • Crime prevention through environmental design. How to make a neighborhood more crime resistant by changing its physical characteristics -- site hardening, lighting, clean up, and maintenance.
    • Signs of illegal activity. From the "broken window" theory through warning signs of illegal drug, gang, and other criminal activity.
    • How to close down the drug house on your block. From recognizing and tracking the behavior to unique approaches for motivating landlords, neighbors, police, and others to help solve the problem. How to make sure the problem stays solved.
    • "Twelve Ways To Improve Your Neighborhood Right Now." This is a simple list of 12 steps any citizen can take, immediately, to make a more positive impact in their own neighborhood today.  (To see a copy of the list, visit our Recommended Reading page.)
  6. Working with the police and other helping agencies. How to build an effective partnership. When to call. How to get help. "Separation of Powers" -- what police/others can and can't do; what neighbors can and can't do. This section is best tailored to the specific jurisdiction, in partnership with the local law enforcement agency. In this section it is highly appropriate to cover such specific local information as:
    • How and where to report so that neighbors are better able to report each type of crime to the appropriate party. This reduces situations where a 911 operator has to disappoint a neighbor by telling him/her that graffiti is not an emergency and increases the incidence of neighbors feeling that their involvement matters because they have experienced talking to the right person about the problem.
    • How to find a landlord's name and address to contact him/her and the "civil force continuum" for motivating a reluctant property owner to address problems.
    • Local ordinances and how citizens can help them be applied. Examples may be curfew, nuisance abatement, drug abatement, and other laws designed to address chronic problems that threaten neighborhood peace.
  7. The emotional/psychological side of saving a neighborhood. While the experience of turning a neighborhood around has the potential of offering tremendous personal rewards, it can also exact an emotional price that at times can overwhelm the organizer. In this section of the course we focus on the psychological side of leading a neighborhood turnaround and methods for dealing with that challenge.
  8. Applied Principles I: Managing the organizing process in a Neighborhood Watch. Building on the platform developed in the earlier portions of the training, we'll review how these principles are used to develop very powerful Neighborhood Watch efforts. Discussion includes specific steps for meeting management, and strategies for sustaining the effort. (There will be a variety of handouts on these issues.)
  9. Applied Principles II: Citizen foot patrol. Using a variation of a foot patrol manual that we developed, we show how the concepts of citizen involvement already covered in the course lead to a different type of citizen's foot patrol than the common image suggests.


The optimal length is as a full-day seminar, particularly for those taking the "train-the-teacher" course. Trainings to citizen groups are generally, necessarily, shorter simply because of the challenge involved in getting a large number of citizens from one geographic area to attend a full day course. Because of this challenge, a four-hour mini-version of the course is often provided to neighborhood groups.


Contact us for pricing. Because of the customized nature of the work, we will need to discuss project specifics in order to prepare a budget. Typically, we can provide same-day rough estimates of costs and provide exact cost bids within three business days of a request.

Next Steps

For more information, contact John H. Campbell directly.