Citizen Patrols – A Niche in How Communities Are Fighting Crime

Alma L. Figueroa

The recession and the state of the economy over the past few years has affected everything from the way people spend to how safe the streets are at night. Many police departments have had to scale back on the number of officers they employ or the number of hours that officers work due to budget cuts. Being aware of this, neighborhoods and citizens across the country are starting to take matters into their own hands and form citizen patrols.

A citizen’s patrol is when a member of the community who is not a member of law enforcement decides to look for and report crime that they are seeing. A citizen’s arrest is when that person actually takes the accused person into custody and then turns them into local law enforcement. In recent years, people have formed neighborhood watch groups to report crime and suspicious events, but now some people are taking it a step further and it is causing all sorts of problems.

The theory behind citizen’s patrol is with good intentions, but those good intentions can cause several problems. For instance, some citizens have been doing everything from writing parking tickets to actually trying to trying to arrest people who are in the act of committing a crime. This can cause tensions to flare and in the case of parking tickets, those who are being accused of parking illegally might not take the ticket seriously. Arguments over whether or not the person on citizen’s patrol can break out and that can lead to a whole other situation.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are worried that people are going to start to get hurt if people don’t stop taking matters into their own hands. While agencies can understand the frustrations from the public, they also don’t want the public putting themselves in harm’s way either.

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