Nicole Fisher slowly drives down West Vernor Highway, carefully peering between buildings for signs of suspicious activity.
The 38-year-old southwest Detroit resident is looking for signs of drug dealing, gang activity, human trafficking or lesser crimes like garage break-ins, vandalism and illegal dumping.
She is a member of the West Vernor Civilian Patrol, a 25-member group of residents who keep an eye out for signs of criminal activity to help make their neighborhood safe. They report suspicious activity to police.
“I think back to when I was a kid when the community did it for itself,” she said of neighbors looking out for each other. “Throughout the years we lost that. I want to step up and bring it back.”
To that end, Fisher also is a Detroit Police 4th Precinct community representative in the AmeriCorps Urban Safety program at Wayne State University. It is part of a nationwide effort by AmeriCorps aimed at using police crime data to organize residents to make their neighborhoods safer.
Overall, violent and property crimes declined in Detroit in 2017, according to Detroit police. Those crimes include burglary, theft and auto theft. They are the crimes CB patrols typically would come across
“It is getting better,” Fisher said after fueling up while on a recent patrol. “The efforts throughout the community are helping.”
Fisher said public safety is key to helping residents feel better about their community.
That’s what led her to start patrolling five years ago. Patrolling makes her feel connected to the community.
“You get to meet people and talk to them,” she said. “We introduce ourselves and try to build awareness.”
Patrollers work in teams of at least two people. Fisher goes out two to three times a week.
Jesse Gonzalez Sr., who has volunteered in the area for more than 50 years, is happy to see people like Fisher and others volunteer.
“We need more people to step up,” Martinez, 67, said. “It means a lot to see younger people like Nicole (Fisher) get involved. Anybody can do it. But not everybody does.”
There are more than 20 such patrols in the city supervised by the Detroit Police Department.
In order for a neighborhood patrol to be officially sanctioned, it requires at least a dozen members who undergo training.
The participants are given equipment and shirts denoting their patrol. All patrollers are forbidden from actively getting involved in stopping a crime.
“We have to call it in,” Fisher said. “We are not police officers.”
For more information on the neighborhood patrol, phone (313) 854-7534.