By Patroller Nicole Macias, CCOP
I joined Castro Community On Patrol (CCOP) in November of 2016 so it’s my one-year patrol-i-versary!
I’ve lived in the neighborhood for a little over 10 years and over the last few years we’ve noticed a real influx in crime, drug use, and homelessness. I had just had a day where I passed someone smoking meth in broad daylight, a human being pooped on my staircase, and we had to yank our dog away from nearly stepping on a needle. I made a post on the site Nextdoor and asked my neighbors what I could do to help clean up the neighborhood because I didn’t want to simply complain about things getting worse and worse. A lot of folks from CCOP are on the site and involved in the community so a Patroller recommended the group and I signed up for the training. I love the Castro and I love getting to know my neighbors and feeling like I’m making a difference.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with CCOP. They run you through all kinds of situations in the training that had me a little freaked out. However, I had no idea I was going to be patrolling alongside some of the greatest folks so I’d always feel safe and that we’d be able to handle the situations we’d encountered.
I didn’t expect that I’d make a bunch of new friends and look forward to patrolling or volunteering at events. Oh! That’s another thing. I also didn’t realize we do more than the night patrols. We help at vigils, protests, art dedications, celebrations, rallies, etc. assisting with traffic control, crowd safety, or handing out safety whistles. This is a nice way to get to know your fellow patrollers in a slightly lower stress environment. Some of my favorite “shifts” include the moving Orlando shooting anniversary memorial service, Harvey Milk’s Birthday, the Anti-Nazi rally, The Castro Street Fair and Easter with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
I was really happy to see that instead of a loosely organized volunteer shift, I’d have a handbook, a protocol of what to do and who to call, assigned roles so each person has a focus on the patrol and a set of gear designed to keep us and the community safe (flash lights, body cameras, walkies). It’s pretty darn professional for volunteer work! 🙂
My favorite thing is that on every single patrol someone says “Thank you guys for doing this” it’s really rewarding knowing you’re helping people feel safe, especially in these tumultuous times.
I like that the folks I patrol with are kind and decent human beings who really make an effort to be part of something. I’ve gotten to know so many more of my neighbors and local business owners because of patrolling. Now, when I walk around the neighborhood I almost always see a friendly face and get a hello. I also appreciate how tapped in they are to the goings on in the neighborhood. They’re always able to tell me when construction is starting in a particular area, what the next big event is, and they jump at offering up our help to all kinds of local groups looking for support.
People often ask what we do on Patrol so my short answer is usually: We provide a presence in the community that hopefully discourages bad behavior while trying to do some good. We perform wellness checks on the homeless population and offer services if needed. We help drunk people find their ubers and get home safely. We report street light outages. We help sort out disagreements. We get in touch with law enforcement or paramedics when more complex situations arise. We check in with local businesses and see how their nights are going and what their pain points are. We discourage folks from loitering on private property where they might get in trouble or disrupt their neighbors, BUT we’re not cops. We don’t throw authority around or put ourselves in harm’s way. We’re volunteers afterall!
If you would like to join CCOP as a new Trainee Patroller, we have classes on-going throughout the year. Just click the SIGN UP NOW button on the top right corner of our web site www.CastroPatrol.org to find out when the next class will be held. ALL classes are held in the of the Castro neighborhood.