Crime Prevention Programs
Crime, or the fear of, provides the impetus for the citizens to become better informed on how to protect themselves and their property.
Getting back to the old adage of being our "brother's keeper," the Neighborhood Watch program is about neighbors watching out for other neighbors. Neighbors are asked to be the eyes and ears in helping the police with apprehending criminals. Neighborhood Watch is not designed to be a substitute for police protection; rather it is an extension or supplement in assisting the police in making neighborhoods safer for all citizens.
Neighborhood Watch operates under two principles: neighbors getting to know and watch out for each other, and neighbors watching out for each other's property as though it were their own. Neighborhood Watch helps to create an identity within the neighborhood, which in turn fosters a sense of pride and belonging for the participants.
The participants make their neighborhood a safer place to live by adopting a more observant and active attitude and, as a result, become more aware of strange cars, persons, or circumstances. This will not take a lot of time and soon will develop into a daily habit of being aware of what is going on in the neighborhood.
Cellular on Patrol
Cellular on Patrol, sponsored by the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, is a unique and exciting program that gives residents an opportunity to work closely with law enforcement to make their neighborhoods a safer place to live.
The Cellular on Patrol (COP) concept was created in 1992 by Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems in San Antonio as an informal service for cellular phone subscribers. Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems provided free air time for callers who called emergency numbers (911) and non-emergency numbers who were in need of assistance. SWBT subscribers were encouraged to seek assistance and to report accidents or crimes observed while on the road.
In May 1997, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and the County of Bexar joined together with SBMS and SAPD to create a more structured COP program that involves three unique features:
- Members of neighborhood groups receive free training from the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
- Graduates patrol their own neighborhoods using their cell phones for quick emergency and non-emergency assistance.
- Funds to support the program (ID cards, logo shirts, etc.) are donated by local businesses and non-profit organizations.
The first class of COP trainees graduated from the East Side SAPD Substation on October 30, 1993. As of March 1996, there were more than 2,000 COP graduates throughout the city of San Antonio representing more than 200 neighborhoods. We are now excited to offer this program to the citizens who reside within the unincorporated areas of Bexar County.
The COP Training Program
The purpose of the COP Program is to prepare neighborhood residents to be the "eyes and ears" of the law enforcement community and to promote closer cooperation between residents and the agencies that exist to serve them. The training program consists of four hours of classroom training and the opportunity for 8 hours of ride-along at a later time with an experienced district patrol officer in a patrol vehicle.
During the classroom training sessions, volunteers are trained to recognize suspicious activities and other factors that lead to crime in their neighborhoods. Deputies present information on how to recognize various crimes, including burglaries, thefts, robberies, gang activities, and other crimes that may be present where the COP member will patrol. Upon completion of the training, COP graduates are provided a photo ID card. Hats and shirts with the COP emblem are also available for purchase by the graduates.
The ride-along experience provides COP volunteers with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with patrol procedures and establish working relationships with the officers who patrol their neighborhoods. Most COP volunteers have found the ride-along experience to be one of the most educational and valuable parts of the COP program.
COP Patrols and Neighborhoods
The training for the COP program is administered at various locations throughout Bexar County, but the program's foundation is based within the neighborhoods that are served by the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. Before training starts, a program application must be submitted to the program coordinator. A criminal background history will be conducted on all applicants. This process is conducted for the protection of the neighborhoods.
Setting Up COP Patrols
After volunteers complete COP training, the nonprofit group will set up patrols within their neighborhood. Each neighborhood group is responsible for establishing its own patrol schedules and procedures within the guidelines of the Code of Conduct presented during the training.
COP members are to function as the "eyes and ears" of the law enforcement community. For this reason, COP volunteers are given specific instructions not to patrol alone, not to carry any type of weapons, and not to confront or to chase any suspected wrongdoers.
Depending on group preferences, COP patrol volunteers can elect to walk or drive, patrol in short or lengthy shifts, patrol in pairs or larger groups, patrol at night or during the day, or modify their patrol format to best fit their neighborhood's needs.
COP Program Results
The results of the program vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, depending on the crime problems in each area, the strength of the COP patrols, and the length of time each patrol group has been active. COP success stories are numerous. In some neighborhoods, crime statistics have shown an immediate decrease in reported property crimes. Whereas in other neighborhoods, the numbers of reported crimes increased, not because of an increase in crime, but because COP Patrol volunteers were reporting crimes that previously would have gone unreported. In all neighborhoods with active COP patrols, neighbors experience greater interaction with other neighbors, COP patrol members get to know their neighborhood better and residents who are not involved in COP patrols voice their appreciation for the increased feeling of neighborhood security that the COP patrols produce.