Private Patrol in Philadelphia ‘Hood: Help or Hindrance to City Cops?


Harry Mearing is an armed security patrolman in Philadelphia’s Northwood neighborhood, possibly the first in a residential area, says the Philadelphia Daily News. He has handcuffs, a handgun, and a uniform, but he’s no city cop. Each homeowner that seeks his protection pays Mearing $40 a month to look after a home and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. It’s part of a national trend as neighborhoods across the U.S. hire private guards in the face of budget cuts to local police departments. “I don’t enforce vehicle code; I don’t write tickets; I don’t do arrests. I can detain, but only in certain situations,” Mearing said. “This is more of an observe-and-report. [I] see something go down and immediately call 9-1-1.”

Northwood residents sing the guard’s praises. They complain that the Police Department is slow to — and in some cases fails to — respond when called. The neighborhood’s police captain and local leaders, six months after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman in Florida, are uncomfortable with Northwood’s private guard. “Any time you have an armed security guard working with the public, you just don’t know what can happen,” said Capt. Frank Bachmayer of the 15th Police District. “It’s definitely a concern.”

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