Never you fear! Because I’ve been there before, and I’m right there now, and I’m here to tell you that solo patrols CAN be done safely if they are done right. To do it, there are a few things you need to be thinking about. We’re going to operate under the assumption that you have first aid training, are in decent shape, and have some self-defense experience. You don’t need to be a black belt, but maybe you took some seminars, know how to punch, or grew up street fighting.
So, let’s begin.
What you bring on patrol can be very important. It can keep you out of trouble, or put you in deeper. In can save you legally, or help you save a life. So what should you carry? The only way I can tell you is to share what I have found works the best.
- First Aid Kit- This is one of the most, if not THE most important things you can carry. A good first aid kit and knowledge on how to use it can literally help save lives.
- Cell phone- Odds are, you have a smart phone. Which means you have access to the Internet, a camera, the ability to call or text anyone, a flashlight, and a near unlimited set of tools. Need to record what’s going on and don’t have a camera? Pull out your phone. Need to write notes? There’s an app for that. Want to mark off where you witnessed something go down, or are afraid of getting lost? Use the map app. Three is enough, I’m sure you can come up with more stuff, but I’ve got things to do.
- Handout materials- It never hurts to bring some food, socks, or handout packs, just in case you run into those in need.
- Flashlight- Whether its night or day, its always good to have a light. You can use it to see where you are going or blind an aggressor. If you end up in a dark alley, even in the day time, you’ll be happy you have one.
- Go-Pro or similar- Its good to have a camera that can mount to your gear that you can keep running to record anything you come across on patrol. It can help you with any legal troubles you may run into.
- Note pad- Its always good to be able to write down what you see or just take notes. Never hurts to be able to leave yourself a message.
- Business cards or contact info- For recruiting!
- ID- In case you have to talk to the police, it helps to have one.
- Tools- In case you need to help someone fix something small. You might not be able to repair their car, but you can help fix minor stuff.
What you don’t need
- Baton/Pepper spray/Taser/etc.- Self-defense weapons can be helpful if you get in trouble and KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. If you don’t know how to use a baton, it could end up getting you hurt more. Pepper spray is easier to use and less likely to cause significant damage. A taser can be dangerous for someone with health issues. If you have to carry something, I would go pepper spray.
- Knives/guns/swords- Why would you need it? You planning on killing someone? No? Good. Leave them home.
- Recon the area- Before you start, scout the area. Take a look at the area, scout your route, and know where to go. Figure out an escape route, where you want to park, where important locations like police, hospitals, or bathrooms are. Know your area first. Otherwise you’ll spend half your time and attention figuring out where you are rather than what is going on around you.
- Call the police- You should call the police before you go. Let them know who you are (this could include your real name if they ask for it). Tell them that you are out there to help people (don’t say fight crime because that makes them wary). If they pull up, don’t run away. Stop and talk with them. Once they get to know you, they might be helpful in the future. And if you run, they WILL catch you. They probably have more cars near you than you think.
- Watch your six- If you are alone, no is there to watch your back. Be checking behind yourself every block or so. Just in step, turn, with your back towards a wall if possible, look for a second, and turn back. Just do it in step to make sure no one is sneaking up on you. If you need to, check quickly by just turning your head or looking in a window reflection.
- Trust your instincts- You may notice something without realizing it. If you feel something is off, act.
- Be friendly and open- This is how you will make friends, meet recruits, and gain trust with the community. If you are open with the community, they will be willing to help you, either through information, donations, or recruits. Also, open means openly walking down the road. Don’t try to be mysterious or stealthy. Its just silly.
- Stay attentive- don’t get distracted thinking about dinner, your significant other, or anything else. Stay in the “now”. Or you might not have an “after”.
- Stay of the rooftops- Seriously, what is the idea here. At best, you spend 10-20 minutes climbing to the top of a tall building, look out for a minute, and see ants walking around, which you then realize are people. And you can’t see much of what is going on down there anyways, so now you’re sitting on a building doing nothing. Or, it’s a smaller building but you still have to get to the top, and maybe you see a crime. Then what? You run back down, likely losing the criminal because you spent a ton of time climbing stairs. And despite what movies show us, you aren’t going to have a clear path to run between rooftops, because you aren’t Spiderman, and most buildings aren’t the same height with convenient paths between them. Even if they do have nice even roofs, that only goes about a block, and you still have to get up and down. So as fun as the vantage point is (and I know, I sometimes go to the tops of parking garages), they aren’t great for more than a view.
- Don’t hide in the bushes- It looks either silly or suspicious. So either you’ll be a joke or get the police called on you. You probably aren’t as stealthy as you hope to be with all that armor you probably are wearing.
- Don’t try to be stealthy- Having a “stealth suit” doesn’t really mean much. You want to be stealthy? Wear the most common fashion in town. No one will notice. Anything else stands out.
- Don’t run from the police- I said it before. And as someone who has had many interactions with the police, I can tell you that they are generally pretty good at their job. If you run, they will find you, likely because they either have more cars out, or they can see the dude in a superhero costume running away.
- Don’t expect to stop a crime- You’re more likely to run into a drunk that passed out than you are to stop a mugger or a rape. Think back to how often you see crime actually happen. Probably not often. So don’t expect crime to jump out now that you have a uniform on. Just be there to help people, like the drunks who passed out on the street, the homeless in need of supplies, or occasionally the fight that needs to be deescalated.
Now that we’ve talked about all that, you’re ready to patrol. Really, just be smart, use common sense, and don’t treat this like a comic book. Treat it as being in the mobile neighborhood watch.
Do some good
Leave your mark
Make an impact