A group of neighbors committed to stopping crime in Fort Worth says they need more help. Citizens on Patrol are trained to spot suspicious behavior and after three decades on the streets, they're trying to keep up with growth in Fort Worth.
Longtime volunteer Frank Diaz has spent the past 30 years patrolling his neighborhood since the program’s inception.
“We started because there was a lot of high crime in Fort Worth everywhere,” Diaz said
He and his neighbors drive around the Crestwood neighborhood during the day, when they say homes are empty and more vulnerable.
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“Our home was broken into and vandalized several years ago, and you know to be violated that way if anything you can do that would contribute to that not happening to somebody else and you know, that's helpful,” volunteer Paul Cox said.
A 20-minute drive away in the Summerfield community, the Griggs take the night shift and drive around from 12-4 a.m.
“There’s got to be people out there doing that. The police don't have enough to do it effectively,” Lance Griggs said.
Citizens on Patrol volunteers say they've helped find missing people and prevented robberies and car break-ins that can lead to other crimes.
“One young man in our area that took a gun out of a car and was driving this street in the middle of the afternoon with a gun he stole shooting holes in people's cars. That's the type of thing we're trying to prevent,” Griggs said.
But they said they could use some more help these days.
Many of their volunteers are retired and in their 70s and Fort Worth is growing. As they work to recruit, they said it’s important for people to know they're not vigilantes.
“I got upset when the Trayvon Martin thing occurred. I was so upset at what that man did to that kid. That was that was so sad. And it painted with a broad brush what we were doing, and it couldn't have been farther from the truth. We just don't do that,” Griggs said.
Martin, an unarmed teen, was walking through a neighborhood when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain in Florida in a case that sparked widespread outrage.
In Fort Worth. COP volunteers are not allowed to carry weapons or confront people.
If they see something, they stay in their cars and call police.
“Even more important than ever, right now, we better be out here,” Diaz said.
They believe their presence is their greatest weapon and they're hoping more people will volunteer to work with their neighbors to keep their communities safe.
The city of Fort Worth celebrated Citizens on Patrol marking 30 years of service in October.
Fort Worth Police Department Volunteer Services Coordinator Shirley Zertuche said the city has some neighborhoods that don't have any volunteer coverage. After pausing during the pandemic, they've resumed training.