As Winnetka Heights prepares for Christmas, there’s one thing already checked off the list. The neighborhood is one of 10 making up North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol.
“It’s gotten to the point now where it’s critical and response times are not satisfactory,” said NOCUPP Officer Liaison, William Hilburn.
Hilburn lives in nearby Kessler Plaza. He also spent 26 years with Dallas Police Department.
“A law enforcement presence in a crime area is gonna make a difference,” he said.
Hilburn is part of the board overseeing the nonprofit that pays off-duty Dallas police officers to hit the streets. They get a chance to make some extra money while the neighborhoods get an increased police presence.
Russ Aikman serves as NOCUPP Board President.
“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of different skills among the different officers that are part of our group,” Aikman said.
There are 11 total, some from gang and property crime units, supported by nearly 500 resident members. Each pays a dollar a day for a direct line to an officer and for services like daily vacation watch.
“Officers will come by or a construction watch would be if you’re having work done on your house, they’ll stop by and make sure things are safe,” Aikman said.
Police hours are divvied up by neighborhood participation. So far, there's one on-duty about 60 percent of the time.
Since it began in 2007, NOCUPP officers have answered 11,000 calls and made nearly 800 arrests.
Emily Sanford, a Winnetka Heights member, likes the peace of mind it gives her family.
“If I don’t call 911, I know that I can call NOCUPP and I do,” she said.
Sanford knows even the friendliest places experience crime.
“It’s scary, right. I mean we’ve had our house broken into before, our garage I guess I should say,” she said.
The Dallas officers who participate, check into the police station before their NOCUPP shift starts. They’re given the full rights and privileges of on-duty officers, but they’re also allowed more time to be proactive, rather than just reactive in the neighborhoods they patrol. Officers also get a chance to do more community policing, positively interacting with the children in the area.
“I don’t want my children to be scared of the police, I want them to know that they’re here to help us and support us and to keep us all safe. They’re part of our community too,” Sanford said.
Though NOCUPP officers are often able to respond quicker, the patrol is secondary to calling 911 in an emergency. Organizers said it's meant as a supplement, not a solution. But for the 10 neighborhoods banding together, they hope it puts offenders on notice.
“I think they know that we’re on watch, that we’re being vigilant,” Sanford said.
This kind of program exists in dozens of areas throughout Dallas. It’s called “Expanded Neighborhood Patrol.” If you’re interested in learning more about it, you can contact your closest police substation.
Dallas also has a Neighbordhood Police Unit to assist neighborhoods with setting up community crime watch groups.