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Queens Chronicle

New Life For Civilian Patrols—Movement Grows As Precinct Headcounts Dwindle

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2003 12:00 am

Are you getting the sinking feeling that crime is slipping back into your neighborhood? Do you wish that the police could keep a better eye on that problem bodega on your corner?

The ideal solution, of course, would be to put more cops on the streets. But since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, Arthur Wallace has an alternative: take action yourself.

Wallace, who is coordinator of the Rosedale Civilian Patrol, is making the rounds of community and civic gatherings to foster interest in neighborhood watch groups like his own.

At least once a week, the Rosedale Civilian Patrol drives through the community in a white truck with flashing amber lights. The patrol makes sure that there’s no trouble at the local delis and keeps an eye on people getting off the Long Island Rail Road to make sure they make it to their cars and homes okay.

The patrol is no replacement for professional round-the-clock police, yet many view its presence as an important deterrent.

Rosedale has the only active civilian patrol in South Queens—and the eight precincts that comprise the Police Department’s Patrol Borough Queens South unit—and its volunteer force of 17 men and women can cover much ground alone.

So, Wallace is encouraging the formation of other civilian patrols throughout the area, which stretches from Far Rockaway and Queens Village on the east, to Woodhaven and Howard Beach on the west.

He would like to bring the fledgling patrols under a single umbrella, called React, to make sure they get the proper police training and learn from one another’s experiences.

“It’s like a whole new era of civilian patrols,” he said just prior to his first community meeting on Tuesday at Jamaica’s Hillside Manor. “With the cutbacks at the NYPD and everything that’s going on, the police have their hands full. They need the extra eyes and ears.”

Anyone can join or form a civilian patrol. All they need to do is attend a three-hour training class offered by the Police Department. Ages 18 and up are welcome, and the time commitment is relatively small.

But getting one off the ground is no easy matter. Donna Clopton, president of Jamaica’s 103rd Precinct Community Council, tried to start a civilian patrol near her home, but neighbors were concerned about the potential repercussions.

“There were some things going on on our block, and there was one guy who people thought was in the mob. People were afraid,” Clopton said.

Wallace said he’s heard similar concerns, and knows that resparking the civilian patrols will take time and effort. Uniting neighborhoods that are racially diverse into one organization also presents challenges.

Still, Wallace is undeterred. “If I could ask for one thing of everyone in this room, it would be for people to do their part for the community.”

The movement’s beginnings are humble. About twenty potential volunteers and civic leaders turned out for Tuesday’s meeting, even though Wallace printed up 600 flyers and put notices in a local newspaper.

Nonetheless, local residents believe that the patrols could play a significant role, and offered their support. “Our young people need an outlet, and this would be good,” said Ruby McConnell of St. Albans. They need something to do during the summer.”

To get involved, call React at 474-0645.

Welcome to the discussion.