Lafayette Square was the first to start a modern citizen patrol in St. Louis. Since then, others have taken notice and started their own groups. Dutchtown has quickly become the largest, according to police.
Volunteers are asked to pair up with a partner and drive around their neighborhoods in order to report ordinance violations to the city and crime tips to police. The volunteers are not in marked cars and don't have the power to make arrests.
"They just look like a normal person driving down the street. We train them not to be vigilantes. They're not getting involved in crimes. They're merely observing, then leaving the area," said Dan Howard, a police captain in the first district in St. Louis.
Volunteers undergo training and a background check. They're asked to spend a few hours driving their neighborhoods. At the end of a shift, they're asked to fill out a report so police, and in some cases the city, can follow up. If volunteers witness a potential crime-in-progress, they're told to call 911. Police say volunteers are not asked to take photos or continue to monitor the situation.
Saba Cetawayo and his wife, Ya-Ya, volunteer a few hours a month to patrol near their business, Platinum Plus Recording Studio and Entertainment on Virginia Avenue.
"We are invested in this community. We opened up a business here in 2008, Here, we are opening up another business down the street - a banquet facility. We wanna see the area grow and flourish," said Saba Cetawayo.
Other neighborhoods have expressed an interest in starting their own citizen patrols. Captain Howard said Bevo Mill residents recently asked police for guidance. Alderwoman Jennifer Florida said that nearly 40 people in her Tower Grove South neighborhood completed training for the program and plan to start their own patrol, soon.
In Dutchtown, the efforts extend into the court system. Volunteers are being asked to write victim impact statements or appear at sentencing hearings to implore judges to hand down longer sentences for people convicted of crimes in Dutchtown.
The efforts are part of a larger initiative, called Dutchtown Neighbors on Watch or Dutchtown N.O.W. - according to Ward 25 Alderman, Shane Cohn.
According to Cohn, a police substation will soon open in Dutchtown, on Keokuk Street. Cohn said he expected the substation to be fully operational by the end of the month.