Strategy: Voluntary Residential Patrols
Strategy Public housing administrators work with concerned residents, both adult
and juvenile, to provide training and logistics for a . . .
Public housing administrators work with concerned residents, both adult and juvenile,
to provide training and logistics for a voluntary neighborhood patrol.
Crime Problem Addressed
The volunteer patrol concept tends to inhibit almost all larcenies, burglaries,
and premise robberies. Also, pressures are directed toward loiterers, trespassers,
drug pushers, and troublemaking nonresidents. The voluntary patrols also tend to
reduce the fear of all crime for housing residents and their neighbors.
Public housing management, residents, resident initiative groups, and law enforcement
authorities are key partners. In some cases, housing authority proprietary or contractual
security organizations may also participate in this effort.
In working to eliminate drug and prostitution markets from the street, patrols often
use informational tactics against potential users and clients. They distribute brochures
about their group and seek interviews with the media. This increased visibility
virtually guarantees a more significant presence in their neighborhood. In working
with police officers, some tenant patrols use video cameras. They pan the streets
periodically, taking down the license tag numbers of persons in the drug/sex zones.
After police assist in getting the addresses of the owners of the vehicles, a post
card is forwarded to the owners.
In most communities, the patrols are fully staffed by volunteers. Usually the housing
authority furnishes jackets, flashlights, and perhaps handcuffs. In other situations,
unarmed officers are actually employed by the housing authority. In Santa Barbara,
California, a Youth Bike Patrol was pioneered. The kids ride around, note what is
going on, and report it to authorities. It really works well. Often the Bike Patrol
members receive a T-shirt at the completion of their and crime prevention training.
On occasion the police resist voluntary efforts. Some police administrators see
these volunteers as vigilantes and not responsible citizens. Citing the fear of
a volunteer being injured or killed, the police also question the motives of the
volunteer groups. Quite often the police attitude is,"I'm the cop on this beat.
I don't need or want any help." Yet this attitude also lowers citizen participation
and increases the prevalence of crime. Research clearly indicates that violence
by drug dealers against citizen patrols is rare. Volunteer groups should insist
that all members work together in unit patrols and not go off on their own. Volunteer
applicants who have aggressive or combative attitudes should be screened from these
Signs of Success
Resident patrol members in New York City's public housing communities work to reduce
vandalism, loitering, and more serious crime. They report loiterers and suspicious
parties in hallways, lobbies, and elevators. The patrols have also included youth
who serve as escorts to seniors traveling through the community. As of 1994, more
than 15,000 resident volunteers participate. The housing authority reports that
buildings with active patrols experience fewer crimes, including vandalism, and
have increased social cohesion among residents.
Apply the Strategy
Saginaw, Michigan's resident patrol in public housing uses trained residents to
assist police in identifying intruders and trespassers through portable radios and
monitoring of the surveillance equipment stationed throughout the development.