Group aims to aid cops with civilian eyes

By Courtney Dentch

The Rosedale Civilian Patrol is the largest and most active civilian patrol in Queens, acting as an extra set of eyes and ears for police.

But the patrol, which covers the Rosedale community in southeast Queens, only has 17 volunteer members, said Arthur Wallace, president of the patrol.

“It’s good that they’re there, but it’s also sad because there should be more people,” he said.

But Wallace is hoping to expand the patrol, under the React Civilian Patrol, an umbrella organization that would link neighborhood groups together throughout southern Queens, he said.

“We want to create a network between communities where patrols can work together and learn, and when you need a helping hand, it’s there,” Wallace said.

The React patrol is scheduled to hold its first meeting at the Hillside Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Tuesday for community leaders and interested volunteers to learn more about the group, Wallace said. While the meeting is mostly aimed at community leaders, including local politicians and New York Police Department representatives, Wallace is hoping to get a good crowd of potential members to show support for the patrol, he said.

“Without the community leaders knowing who we are, this isn’t going to work,” he said. “Having their support makes a world of difference.”

The React Civilian Patrol is part of React International, a non-profit organization that helps communities set up patrols, Wallace said. The patrols will act in concert with their police counterparts, driving through neighborhoods in pairs looking for unusual or illegal activity, he said.

The biggest difference, he said, is that civilian patrol members are not allowed to get involved in any action requiring the police. Armed with a cellular phone and a Citizen’s Band radio, the patrol members alert the police to the situations, wait for police response and provide auxiliary services, such as directing traffic, Wallace said.

“It makes people feel safer to see the patrols, and it makes the people out to cause trouble think twice,” he said.

The patrols would be established within police precincts in Queens Patrol Borough South, which covers the 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd, 105th, 106th, 107th and 113th precincts, Wallace said. The patrols would target specific communities but would also work with other patrols to help cover the entire southern Queens area, he said.

“There are nights when I have someone who wants to go out but they can’t find someone to go with,” Wallace said of finding pairs within the Rosedale patrol. “If I have someone in Rosedale and Laurelton, why can’t they go out together? It’s time to get the community working together.”

Volunteers will be required to attend an NYPD training class to earn a civilian patrol identification badge and a yearly React training class, Wallace said. Members may also take home-study courses in emergency response to disasters, offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as other courses offered by the NYPD, he said.

“We have a yearly class to keep everyone on their toes and make sure they’re aware of changes going on,” Wallace said. “You want people to take as much training as they can.”

There is no mandated time commitment required from volunteers, he said.

Aside from going out on patrols, there are a number of other jobs patrol members can do, including completing membership paperwork for new recruits, fund-raising, writing and handing out flyers, and speaking at community meetings, Wallace said.

“To get something like this started, there is literally something for everyone to do,” he said. “As long as someone wants to help, we’ll find something for them.”

The meeting of the React Civilian Patrol is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m., at the Hillside Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 188-11 Hillside Ave. in Jamaica. For more information on the patrol visit www.reactcivilianpatrol.org, or call 474-0645.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.