As neighborhood watch group protocols come under national scrutiny with the arrest of a Florida volunteer, a North Texas group is reinforcing the nonviolent approach to fighting crime.
Members of the Volunteers in Patrol group drive around their Spring Creek neighborhood in pairs. They use their own cars and have magnetic signs that say "Volunteers in Patrol."
"We're non-confrontational," Jennifer Zihlman said. "We do not ever get involved. We're just here to see and be seen."
Zihlman helped set up Volunteers in Patrol, the first group of its kind in the Dallas area, about 20 years ago.
"It's a neighborhood where we have Memorial Day parades. We have ice cream socials. ... It's one where everyone would want to live in," she said.
The North Dallas group now has 100 members. Similar groups across Dallas have about 1,100 members.
In the 20 years it has been around, crime has gone down at least 50 percent, Volunteers in Patrol said. Zihlman said the group has found that the more members are out, the less crime there is.
"You'd be amazed at how often criminals will see us, and they will go the other way," she said.
Group members said they are saddened by the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin. A judge determined on Thursday that there is enough probable cause to move forward with the case.
Volunteers in Patrol members said that they make sure to reinforce their nonviolent technique whenever new volunteer patrol groups start up.