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 brothers 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 others 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.
If you would like to setup a Neighborhood Watch in your area, please call the Bexar County Crime Prevention Unit at 210-335-6148 or 210-335-6155 for a presentation. This is a FREE service of the Bexar County Sheriffs Office.
Cellular on Patrol, sponsored by the Bexar County Sheriffs Office in conjunction with Citizens On Patrol, 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 Office and the County of Bexar joined together with SBMS and SAPD to create a more structure COP program that involves three unique features:
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 who represent 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 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 eight hours of classroom training that is divided into 2 classes and the opportunity for 8 hours of ride-along 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 and other specialists present information on how to recognize various crimes, including burglaries, thefts, robberies, gang activities, and other crimes that may be present where the COP graduates will patrol. In addition, applicable County Court Orders are discussed as well as strategies to use the various agency resources to clean up the neighborhoods. Topics covering elderly, disabled, youth, and crime victims show residents how to access the agency services are also discussed.
The ride-along experience provides COP volunteers with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with patrol procedures and to 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 training. Upon completion of the training, COP graduates are presented with a graduation certificate and a photo ID card. Hats and shirts with the COP emblem are also available to the graduates.
The training for the COP program is administered out of the BCSO, but the programs 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.
The COP Program is supported by Bexar County Citizens on Patrol (BCCOP). BCCOP is a nonprofit group with two main goals: to solicit and receive donated funds that are used to pay associated program costs and to provide the infrastructure for recruitment of neighborhood association members into the COP program, providing a pool of volunteers to assist behind-the-scenes at COP training. The Executive Board of BCCOP is comprised of volunteers from across Bexar County. If you would like to be considered for a board position, please indicate so on the COP application.
After a sufficient number of volunteers complete COP training, the nonprofit group will set up patrols within their neighborhood. Each neighborhood group is responsible for establishing their own patrol schedules and procedures within the guidelines of the COP Dos and Donts presented during the training.
COP members are to function as the eyes and ears for the law enforcement community. For this reason, COP volunteers are given specific instructions not to patrol alone, not to carry any type of weapons, 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 neighborhoods needs.
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 police 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.
The COP program is now available to all residents of Bexar County and training is offered by the BCSO. Special classes can be scheduled for large groups from one area with prior arrangements. Please call the COP coordinator for the class dates and the location nearest to you.
For more information on the COP program, please contact:
COP Program Coordinator at the Sheriffs Office
210.335.5791 or 210.335.5787
Bexar County Citizens on Patrol
P.O. Box 762467
San Antonio, TX 78245
BC Dispute Resolution: 210.335.2128
BCSO Crime Prevention: 210.335.6155 / 210.335.6148
BCSO Criminal Investigations: 210.335.6070