Make your park safer 2: ​​​​​​​civilian observation patrols

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Image credit Seth Sherman

A proactive way to attack the crime problem in your park and neighborhood is by forming citizen observation patrols. People who walk problem areas regularly are more apt to notice patterns in and details of illegal activity which they can report to the police. Remember, these patrols are for observation only. Never put yourself in danger, and DO NOT attempt to interrupt crimes in progress.
  • Let your local police know that you want to start a citizen’s patrol and always let the police know when you go on patrol. Discuss with them the times and routes you will be walking. Coordinate your patrols with the regular police patrols. Police Departments may also run training programs for civilian patrols.
  • Some groups have used these patrols to send a message. Putting on uniforms, they have marched around the neighborhood letting the drug dealers and other criminals know that they weren’t going to take any more. While it can be effective, this kind of confrontational activity is dangerous and is not necessary for a civilian patrol to be a success.
  • You may want to present a united front by wearing matching t-shirts or hats, though you should first assess your situation and decide whether this may put you at risk by making you a target.
  • A low-key patrol that simply collects information and passes it on to the police and other authorities can also be effective, with much less risk.
  • For safety’s sake, you may want to communicate by radio.
  • For a covert observation patrol, a huge group isn’t necessary to make an impact. Start with a small group of committed individuals. You don’t want to let the drug dealers and other criminals know that you are reporting to the police on their activities. Small groups are important for confidentiality.

Additional Resources
NRPA: Creating Safe Park Environments to Enhance Community Wellness
NRPA: Park Advocate Handbook
Project for Public Spaces: What Role Can Design Play in Creating Safer Parks
Project for Public Spaces: Planning, Designing and Maintaining Safer Parks
Project for Public Spaces: What Role Can Programming Play in Creating Safer Parks