A San Bruno resident is hoping to get traction on a community on patrol group, with support from the city, but it’s mostly been an uphill battle, he said.
San Bruno’s Robert Barnett, 61, works in private security and started a small group last year after growing concerned about crime in his neighborhood. He wants official support and funding from the city, so his group of volunteers is legitimized. Being able to carry identification from the city would allow him and his team to be able to talk to residents more easily as credentialed people, he said.
“We want to be an extension of the police department,” Barnett said. “We’re willing to do training.”
In a letter dated April 23, 2013, Police Chief Neil Telford wrote to Barnett that he commends Barnett for his enthusiasm to prevent crime in San Bruno. In the letter, Telford encourages him to work with the existing neighborhood watch program that’s sponsored by the police department with assistance from the citizens’ crime prevention committee.
Telford went on to write that he is aware of successful volunteer programs that are run under the auspices of a police or sheriff’s department, but this group delves more into the area of private patrol.
“Due to the inherent risks and liability for the persons involved, I could not support nor encourage a citizens’ private patrol without proper training and specific guidelines to be followed,” he wrote
Further, Barnett is concerned that the city’s Citizen’s Crime Prevention Committee is waning, noting that only he, Councilman Rico Medina, its chair Robert Riechel and Support Services Officer Daryl McCoy were present at its Aug. 8 meeting. Unlike other cities in the area, San Bruno’s police department doesn’t post its crime reports online, making it hard for the public to see what crime activities are going on in their area, Barnett added.
The police department would like to see this committee grow, working with police and the city, rather than have a potentially unsafe group, Telford said.
“[Telford] told me directly that there could be problems created because patrolling would upset the community and create an atmosphere like the one in Florida,” Barnett said.
The atmosphere to which he refers is the Trayvon Martin shooting by a neighborhood watch member in Sanford, Fla. This, and other dangers, are of concern to Telford.
“It’s obviously the police department’s responsibility for law enforcement in San Bruno,” Telford said. “If you have a group of citizens going out on patrol, they’re exposing themselves to undue risks. Most private security groups are licensed through the state, with additional certification and background checks. This group goes beyond neighborhood watch. There are safety, licensing and training concerns. This is extremely discouraged.”
The group is not just about crime prevention, but about keeping the city clean from abandoned cars, trash, graffiti and overgrown vegetation, Barnett said. He has actually been on patrol since 2001, but said he formed the group because crime has recently been more of a problem in the city.
One member joined because of worries about crime in his neighborhood. Dana Ynotroza, a member of the patrol group, is Barnett’s direct neighbor. His concern grew when five homes were burglarized in his Mills Park neighborhood within two years.
“Burglaries are my main concern, but also disruptive neighbors,” he said. “Bob [Barnett] sees things the SBPD doesn’t see. We were giving reports to the chief directly, but follow-up from the police department left something to be desired. We’ve done leafleting to get people involved with a new type of neighborhood watch since the old neighborhood watch is not effective or vibrant. We’re struggling to get off the ground because of the apathy of neighbors and that’s unfortunate. I don’t want to come home and have mine be the next [robbed]; it’s come to who has an alarm system and who doesn’t.”
For more information on San Bruno on Patrol, visit cityofsanbruno.info. The group has about 17 members, Barnett said.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105