How you can be the eyes and ears for the police

One of the more popular questions that I get at public meetings has to do with police visibility. Most people want more. Who wouldn’t?

In Montserrat, the ratio of police to citizens is about 7.8 cops per 1.000 citizens. That means there are seven cops of average height and one short dude, but there are almost 8 per 1,000. That’s ideal. By the way, Montserrat is part of the island chain of the Lesser Antilles, in the Caribbean.

(I pulled this up on the Internet. Nice! I have an application in there. I had to lie on the application. Told them I was 25, but looked a bit more “mature.” They asked for a photo. I Googled an image of Fabio and Photoshopped it onto a photo of me in my uniform. They wrote back that I looked too out of shape, but my hair was fabulous.)

Around these parts — parts being this country — the ratio that would probably fit in the norm would be around 1 to 2 per 1,000, 2 being very a very good ratio. That seems a bit sparse, doesn’t it? Well, in these times of budget crunches, 1.5 would be considered excellent.

In Sandy Springs, we would fit around the 1.7 — almost 1.8 — category. Better than average, but still a long way from a cop on every corner.

Mobility is good. Cops in cars provide a lot of visibility. Visibility provides a certain amount of deterrence. But when the car is moving, there’s only so much the officer can see, and less of what he or she can hear.

Old-fashioned foot beats are good for concentrated areas, but with so much suburban sprawl, it’s not practical.

Most police departments utilize and plan strategies based on analysis. “Hot spots” get the added attention of crime suppression units and specifically focused enforcement units. If you have a concentrated area of thefts from cars, then police departments focus on surveillance and teams of undercover units in hopes of catching them.

The next best thing to that is running them off by concentrated uniform patrol. As much as l like my peers in the surrounding cities and counties, I’d much prefer our crooks find it easier to do business there than here.

This is the same philosophy as when we worked beat cars in patrol.

I knew the “usual suspects” and I would occasionally have a short “Come to Jesus” meeting.

Now before you get all A.C.L.U. on me, no rubber hoses were harmed in those meetings. We merely discussed the topic of how I would be thrilled if they would frequent across the street and beat line. The officer on that side of the street would do the same in hopes that the frustrated crook, most often a burglar, would decide to work another area. Some did and some didn’t, but the goal was all about the percentages. You wanted your crime numbers down and arrests up.

If it seems there’s never a cop around when you need one …

Unfortunately, cops can’t be everywhere at once, as the cliché goes, so we constantly look for new ways to address the age-old problems of what I call “prior information.” The more you know, the better you can plan.

Currently, we’re blasting our way into the future of technology — something that left me behind at the gate. For example, the chief began talking about a “fusion” center that we’ll have in place soon. And I thought to myself: “Why the hell do we need a nuclear reactor?”

A more grass-roots approach that many departments are utilizing is the volunteer corps. Volunteers range from administrative support to patrol functions. We plan to utilize a group of citizen for patrols in Sandy Springs. The idea is two-fold. It frees up police officers on calls such as road hazards and traffic problems such as waiting on wreckers, which there is a lot of. Secondly and most importantly, it gives the police more eyes and ears.

That’s a big plus.

You would be surprised at how many seemingly insignificant 9-1-1 calls result in big-time arrests. Someone sees something or someone, perhaps a car slowly driving around the block for the second time or someone loitering or, like we often get, pedestrian traffic going in and out of a home or apartment.

“I don’t know if this is anything or not, but I think it sort of looks suspicious.” We get that a lot. And a lot of times it turns into good arrests.

As far as volunteer patrol, it’s not for everyone. It’s eyes and ears only and it takes someone who isn’t in it for the “adrenaline rush.” It’s for someone with common sense who knows what to look for and someone who has the time to put in.

Several departments across the nation use volunteer patrols. The training is geared to teach the volunteer what to look for and how to report it. Sound simple, but it is a big factor in getting information to the cops early enough to respond.

What we plan is to require volunteers to be graduates of the citizen’s police academy. (We do three each year.) From there, we’ll target specific training in a number of focused areas such as learning how to spot suspicious cars seen in the area, known crooks and what they drive, and how crooks pick a target.

It’s not the old “Citizens on Patrol” silliness from the “Police Academy” movies. It’s something that we will probably see more of. People want to make a difference, especially in their own neighborhood.

This is a great way to increase that “visibility” factor and chalk up a few war stories at the next Bunko session.

15 comments Add your comment

Scott S

May 4th, 2010
2:16 pm

Lt. Rose – these are great ideas, but I have two questions: First, How does one get signed up for being part of the Citizens patrol, and secondly, how vulnerable is the citizens patrol to lawsuits being filed in this litigious society we in which we live?


May 4th, 2010
3:41 pm

Lt. Rose, you forgot to mention and give notice to the many law abiding citizens of Atlanta legally carrying firearms in everyday places as well. These are citizens who have exercised their right to no longer be the victims of violent crimes. Pushing SB308 would also allow legal carrying in many more places and push out gun crimes in “gun free zones”. Gun free zones are a joke in Atlanta, ask the GT students who are being victimized and robbed daily. They would be arrested and expelled for carrying a means of self defense and “playing by the rules”…but the bad guys don’t play by anyone’s rules and have easy access to victims constrained by overbearing and unnecessary regulations.

Everyday citizens on patrol is a first step, but I think it’s just another form of snitching. And everyone’s mama from an early age tells you “not to tattle tale.” It would be great to see Sandy Springs Police officers rally behind legislation that would allow law abiding regular citizens more means to protect themselves.

As you stated Lt, the cops AREN’T on every corner…and when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.


May 4th, 2010
4:57 pm

You can arrest them, but, are the Courts going to punish them ??
Community Service is just an inconvience to the crooks.


May 4th, 2010
7:01 pm

Hi we are from the United Kingdom and are civilians who engage in Street Patrols working in partnership with the police. We are on
Just like to say hi to other citizen street patrol organisations.


BIG Lt. Rose Fan!

May 5th, 2010
12:51 am

Excellent excellent info. Crime is out of control. And we ALL must take responsibility for it. We should consider our police as PARTNERS in crime-fighting efforts. ‘Snitching’ is a label that criminals use to frighten and intimidate us, and it must stop, if we are to have hope of living safely.
Today, the pest control company was spraying for wasps and carpenter bees. Since we can’t spring for major repairs and treatment until the Fall, they were doing ‘maintenance’ spraying. I was worried that they weren’t authorized to take immediate, aggressive action, and so the technician told me that by continuing to ‘zapp’ them individually as I do, that that would go a long way towards keeping them from getting really bad. Hhmmmmmm. There is a theme here.
I am living proof that being ‘eyes and ears’ in my ‘hood’ is fruitful – has resulted in 3 arrests, and boy is my hood quieter now.
To Harry: Living in Dekalb County, I feel your pain ALL too well. Criminals often get released with a mere slap on the wrist. All I can say is don’t let that deter you, and keep working with legislators and other officials to change the all-too-common practice of letting criminals out to commit more heinous crimes. You’ve seen it in Fulton too.
And Lt. Steve – I like the new pic – at the risk of sounding like a fawning suck-up, you’re only getting more handsome. (Hair is overrated anyway) (Bald is beautiful! and mostly sexy as H!! so don’t worry, if that’s where you’re headed)
And what the H is a ‘fusion center’ ?? (Buzz words p me off, so this better be good) Love ya dude, and thanks as always for the laughs!

Big Al

May 5th, 2010
7:42 am

Where do I sign up? When do I get my Uzi?

What court system !

May 5th, 2010
10:36 am

Harry, I agree with you. Community watch means nothing if the court system blows ! I caught the thug who broke into our home. I also showed the police where the crook lived, After the slime bucket was booked and place in jail, two days later he was seen walking around our neighborhood without a care in the world. Eventually, his mother packed up and the young lad disappeared. Nevertheless, our $2500 worth of valuables disappeared into the nothingness from which it came. Yet, I can only imagine how many more doors this young kid has kicked down, thanks to the court system !


May 5th, 2010
1:15 pm

Sounds like a good program.

I would love to read a blog entry with examples of what “gray area” situations would merit a call to 911 vs. a regular non-emergency police number (or neither). I think a lot of people are reluctant to call 911 for things that aren’t obvious emergencies, and aren’t sure exactly how to handle less clear situations. Feels a little odd to call an emergency number just to say there’s an odd car parked on your street.


May 6th, 2010
7:32 am

I wouldn’t complain if my house got robbed today if it was the result of the local 5-0 beating the crap out of the Westboro Baptist Church idiots who will be spreading their filth and hate all over Atlanta today.

Hey Steve, what’s the legality of throwing bags of dog poop?


May 6th, 2010
8:24 am

Don’t waste time calling the cops…get a concealed carry permit and protect yourself and your family. Cops are too busy pulling over single drivers in the HOV lane during rush hour to protect or serve you.

Gotta keep that revenue rolling in, right, Chief?

devil dawg

May 6th, 2010
9:07 am

Why would I ever help the cops, they don’t help me.


May 6th, 2010
9:15 am

So now you want us to do your job too Steve. You guys don’t have time to actually prevent crime, since your so busy harassing people for no reason?


May 6th, 2010
9:20 am

And I agree with devil dawg. GREAT Point. The store I worked at one time got robbed and the cops told me “oh well”. But you can bet they have a speed trap set up right down the road to harass people… Cops are worthless and I will NEVER call them for any reason. I can protect myself just fine. Thanks for the advice though Steve. We’ll get right on that doing your job thing.

Fine with me!

May 8th, 2010
11:27 am

One thing you can say about blogs, it sure brings out the crazies.
Look. There are 2 choices. Partner with police to help them do a better job (because there are only so many of them), or DON’T work with them. Frankly, I hope I don’t live around people who choose NOT to work with them. I choose to work WITH them, and you know what?? They’re THERE when I need them.
Things don’t always work out in life the way you’d like them to, but I’ll just keep on doing things that increase my odds that they will. Although we know that there are “apples” in every tree, I rarely find better human beings than cops. If I had it to do over again, I’d have married one. But I think Lt. Rose is already taken!
Have a nice day!

Oh brother.

May 8th, 2010
12:23 pm

Not that you morons will pay attention, but if you have half a brain, you just might get the point by watching this video of why it’s a win-win to help police:
Duh. Good luck out there. Hope Damon rots in jail.