Residents pitch in with Patrol Watch

Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — It’s no secret that the combination of high unemployment, vacant homes and reduced police staffing leaves some communities more vulnerable to crime. What may not be as well known is that there are everyday residents in town who do their part to balance the scales.

There’s always room for more, said Police Lt. Brian Hawk of the department’s Cititzen’s Patrol Watch, an all-volunteer crew that helps police keep tabs on the city. About 30 people currently volunteer with the group, a long-standing crew of volunteers who provide manpower for non-critical police functions.

Hawk, a 20-year department veteran who has coordinated the program for five years, said that their efforts are instrumental in helping the department monitor crowds and keep tabs on the city.

“They are paramount in what the police department is all about,” Hawk said. “They’re our eyes and ears, and instrumental in blood drives and things like graffiti removal.”

The Patrol Watch began during the 1970s citizen’s band radio craze and featured resident groups patrolling and communicating with each other and the police via CB radio. When street gang activities became problematic in the 1990s, the group reorganized to become more community involved, responding first to graffiti and evolving into a community-support organization. They take weekly patrols, put on seminars for neighborhood groups, and help with crowd control during parades, festivals and Cruisin’ Downriver. Hawk said, the group is instrumental in curbing what many communities have reason to fear: The night before Halloween and its history of property destruction.

“One of their largest functions in on ‘Angel’s Night,’ which they’ve been so successful with,” Hawk said. Their efforts helped all but eliminate the random arsons that have long plagued Detroit neighborhoods.

Interested volunteers are invited to attend the next Watch meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Community Policing Building, 1394 Cleophus. Hawk said applications and information will be available Wednesday and at subsequent monthly meetings. For more information on the Citizen’s Patrol Watch, visit the Police Department page on the city web site,, or call (313) 381-1800.

(James Mitchell can be reached at