St. Pete is taking neighborhood watch up a notch

Communities joining 'Citizens on patrol' program

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Taking back your neighborhood from thieves. You’ve heard about Neighborhood Watch, but how about Citizens On Patrol? It's one way you can team up with police to chase the bad guys off your street.

St. Petersburg resident Tasha Dean tosses and turns at night every since thieves rifled through both her and her husband's cars in their Riviera Bay neighborhood. The thieves have stolen items from cars up and down her street. 

“It’s very scary when you live in a safe neighborhood but then you become the victim. You want to feel safe in the neighborhood your raise your children in,” she explained.

The crooks are gone in seconds, unlike her feeling of insecurity. 

“We installed cameras like so many of our neighbors just to feel at ease,” Dean added.

Riviera Bay neighbors are sick of being victims in their own homes, and now they’re the latest community to join Citizens On Patrol,

a program that encourages neighbors to walk, bike and drive the streets looking for anything suspicious.

Just 3 miles away, Nina Light is on the lookout and trying her best to intimidate, “as much as I can without getting in trouble,” she said with a laugh. 

In the past 5 years, Light's clocked 20,000 miles, keeping watch on her Allendale Neighborhood. She's been involved in fighting crime since 2007, when thieves dashed in through an open garage door at her home and held her family at gunpoint.

“Luckily they didn't shoot us, but I don’t want anybody in the neighborhood to go through something like that,” she added.

Since she and her neighbors started patrolling a few years ago, crime has dropped significantly.

Her neighbor Carl Jenson says he's noticed a big difference, “This isn’t the place you want to do your crime. The criminals aren't targeting us as often since Nina started patrolling.”

St. Petersburg Police Officers are encouraging more neighborhoods to get on board because with more eyes and ears in your neighborhood, more crooks will get arrested.

All it takes to join Citizens on Patrol is a 2-hour training, some car magnets and signing a liability waiver promising you won't put yourself in unnecessary trouble. 

The Police Department encourages citizens on patrol not to approach any suspects, add lights or sirens on their car or carry a weapon. They suggest taking pictures, video, noting license plate numbers and calling the police department to report any crime taking place. 

If you're interested in having your neighborhood join the Citizens on Patrol program, you can call Officer Mark Williams at 727-893-4935 or reach out to him by email at mark.williams@stpete.org.

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