Burglars avoid areas with WhatsApp neighbourhood watch

Publicly announced neighbourhood watch WhatsApp groups are proving highly effective as a deterrent to home burglaries across Tilburg. In 35 areas initiating the alert system, a reduction in the average number of monthly burglaries fell by half, from 60 to 30, according to Tilburg University researcher Martijn Akkermans.

“We did not expect such a spectacular fall,” Akkermans told AD. Tilburg residents were invited to participate by the municipality, which has led to the arrests of ten different burglars.

This has been the first time that WhatsApp neighbourhood watch has been scientifically investigated. Across the country, neighbors are more frequently taking initiative and using their mobile phones to notify each other of goings-on , although usually only after a burglary wave has hit their community.

It creates a perception that residents are more alert, and the likelihood of calling the police on any suspicious person or activity has increased.

Akkermans said that the initiative works on condition that enough people actively participate. Participants that see something suspicious are advised to first call emergency services at 1-1-2, and thereafter send a description of the suspect and situation to the WhatsApp group.

"These groups act as additional eyes and ears in their neighborhoods," said Sybren van der Velden, the police national coordinator on home invasions. "With this method, a great deal of information can quickly be collected, and help the police to track down suspects faster."