Community Anticrime Groups Expand

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Community anticrime groups are expanding in an era of high foreclosure rates, a spike in brazen break-ins, and slashed police budgets, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Atlanta anticrime activist Larry Ely calls it an “urban war.” The groups include nighttime jogger patrols with flashing headlamps, unofficial block patrols with cop-like “beats,” and neighborhood all-Twitter alarms – short text messages dubbed “BOLO” or “be on the lookout” when something potentially dangerous or illegal happens.

“When you go broke, be creative. Outsource criminal justice back to the people,” says Peter Scharf, a criminologist at Tulane University in New Orleans. “When you go through a very chaotic period with crime, people are going to become more innovative.” Hard numbers on the rise in amateur crime fighters don’t exist, but policing experts say the trend is noticeable. At the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), which runs some 26,000 Neighborhood Watch groups, activity has risen to nearly the levels of the winter of 2001, after 9/11. NSA crime prevention specialist Robbie Woodson links the uptick directly to the Congressional decision in 2007 to cut community policing grants by 68 percent, much of which had been aimed at low-level crime in transitional neighborhoods.

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