Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Women Patrol Aims to Take Back Detroit Streets

Women patrol aims to take back Detroit streets

Santiago Esparza
The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Holding signs with slogans: "Phenomenal Women" and "Take Back the Community," about 25 members of a fledgling neighborhood group launched a patrol Saturday on the city's northwest side.

Women On Patrol organizers said they formed the group because they no longer wanted to be scared in their homes and neighborhoods. The patrol will be a bi-weekly effort as organizers push for similar patrols across the city.

"We want to be visible," said co-founder Dr. Kimberley Meeks as she and other patrollers wore pink shirts to bring attention to their cause. "We have to get out and help defend and protect ourselves."

A handful of men participated in the patrol. They came to show support or serve as stand-ins for their wives, who had to work.

A Detroit Police officer kept an eye on things as the patrollers held a rally at Grand River and Greenfield and then walked through the neighborhood.

Meeks said the patrollers will report crime, but will not try to bust up a criminal act.

"We hope to deter crime," Meeks said. "We have no desire to intervene. That is the job of the police."

Meeks said women, single mothers and widows head about 70 percent of the households in Detroit. So a patrol comprised mostly of women makes sense, organizers said.

"We will spread the word sister to sister, neighbor to neighbor," said co-founder Valerie Burris.

Charlene Brownlow lives just south of the area patrolled. She came to the rally to show support and to try and establish a patrol in her neighborhood. She said her home recently was burglarized, despite having an alarm system.

Brownlow, a theologian, said the police are doing everything they can but need residents to pitch in as well.

"I am not just here because it is the thing to do," she said. "If anybody wants to take back their neighborhood, it is me."

Meeks said she hopes the patrol will serve as a reminder that reporting crimes is appropriate. She said there is a culture among rappers, their fans and many inner city residents that they should never cooperate with police.

This so-called stop snitching mentality is popularized on hats and clothing and in some songs.

"We will notify the police if we see a crime," she said. "We are not going to participate in the don't snitch type of behavior."

You can reach Santiago Esparza at (313) 222-2127 or sesparza@detnews.com.

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