At a March 13 meeting at the Lafayette Hotel, the North Park Community Association sponsored a meeting at which the Stonewall Citizens' Patrol presented their plans to expand into the North Park area. The volunteer neighborhood-watch program has operated in Hillcrest for the past six years.
Don Mitchell, Stonewall's executive director, said another patrol car is necessary. They are already covering Hillcrest and University Heights, with occasional North Park patrols, using their one vehicle.
Mitchell said fundraising will be a challenge for both organizations. “Gas prices are really hurting us,” he said. Their office is “virtual,” so they have no rent payments.
Community Association president Nikki Berdy has contacted car dealers about a vehicle donation, but there are no bites yet. She said she will be contacting other dealers.
The meeting's purpose, beyond announcing the program, was to sign up patrol volunteers and fundraising helpers. About 50 people attended.
The need for the patrol in North Park arose with the increased number of bars. Public drunkenness, vandalism, fighting, and excessive noise are the usual incidents reported, according to Berdy.
Edwin Lohr, a volunteer with both organizations, talked about patrolling. “We carry no guns, and we don't pull anyone over,” he said. Volunteers rarely leave the patrol car. But Lohr said he likes to get out “occasionally, to go into the bars and introduce myself.”
Mitchell said “on a typical night we might call the SDPD once. We are more of a preventive, and we follow a hands-off policy.”
Volunteers get training from SDPD on procedures and policies and learn CPR. Patrol shifts last three hours, between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Stonewall Citizens' Patrol is not like a regular private security patrol where businesses pay a fee; there are no fees involved. The organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and contributions come from citizens in the communities served (Hillcrest, University Heights, North Park).
Mitchell said their expenses are low: their patrol car is paid for and they pay $100 per month for insurance. Stonewall is an all-volunteer organization, so nobody gets paid, including Mitchell, who works full-time as a security officer at Father Joe's Villages. When not in use, the patrol car has free parking at the LGBT Center in Hillcrest.
With the expansion to North Park, Mitchell said he's shooting for a new budget of $5000 to $10,000 a year to pay for gas, upkeep, insurance, and a monthly payment for another patrol car (if they can't get one donated).
Stonewall was established in 2006, after six men were badly beaten after leaving the Pride festival in Hillcrest.
Info: stonewallcitizens.org, northparksd.org