West Vernor Civilian Patrol (WVCP) Combats Crime and Supports Families
There is a long history of community patrols in Detroit. One in particular launched in 2011 following a rash of crimes in southwest Detroit. This included one weekend when four individuals were killed and prostitutes on Vernor Ave. were being assaulted. There was also a major issue of young people inhaling “Whip It” N2OCO2 cartridges to get high, and consistently leaving empty cartridges on the street. To combat these offenses, nine residents started patrolling the community. After being made aware of the citywide Patrol program, the West Vernor Civilian Patrol (WVCP) was started. This initiative also included conducting cleanups in and around vacant open structures and overgrown lots to eliminate hiding spaces for bodies or drug use/sales. The President is Nicole Fisher. The patrol is based in the Southwest Safety Hub, which is housed in the Congress of Communities and was established as a partnership with the Detroit Police Department, Detroit Public Schools Security and other security /enforcement agencies in the area. The hub supports the health and safety of the surrounding neighborhoods by serving as a safe haven and resource center for residents and crime victims. The Community Patrol holds monthly meetings at the Hub with the police department, school district, elected officials, and community and business leaders to share information about current crime and present crime prevention strategies.
- Eliminate the sale of N20CO2 cartridges to minors
- Support residents to encourage crime reporting to Detroit Police Department
- Deter violence by the presence of patrols
- Clean-up blighted areas
City/Government Departments Involved
- Detroit Police Department
- Detroit Public School Community District
- Michigan House of Representatives
Government Intervention to Create Change
The West Vernor Civilian Patrol was instrumental in the “WHIP IT” campaign; by protesting, attending public meetings, and contacting legislators a Michigan law was passed.
On Thursday, March 8, 2018, Michigan’s house of representatives passed a package of bills limiting the sale and distribution of nitrous dioxide oxide containers. The legislation would make it more difficult for minors to purchase the substance., also known as “laughing gas,” an inhalant that induces a mild, temporary euphoria.
According to the office of Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), sponsor of HB 5463, “After many conversations with Detroit residents and law enforcement officials and seeing ‘whip-its’ all over parts of Southwest Detroit, it became clear that the misuse of this substance by young people was a pervasive issue in our community, and legislation was necessary…”
The biggest challenge has been keeping members actively patrolling, and recruiting additional drivers.
Measurable Community Successes: Creation of a Southwest Safety Hub
Before the law was passed there was a large number of teens using CO2 cartridges to get high. There was also an abundance of the used CO2 cartridges discarded throughout the community. The WVCP has been pleased to see a drastic reduction in both the use of the chemical and the litter it leaves behind. The community patrol has also been pleased to see that both numbers (teen usage and cartridge litter) have decreased drastically.
Since Southwest has had an active patrol group, the crime rate in the 4th precinct has decreased and remained down, per Compstat data.
‘West Vernor Civilian Patrol is known by some as the ‘snitch’ group, but like we tell them, we are out looking to bring awareness to everyone — no matter who you are.”– Nicole Fisher, President, West Vernor Civilian Patrol
Other Patrol Achievements / Relationships
In addition to WVCP’s work to reduce crime and drug use, they became a trusted resource for other community members. In September 2016, Amanda Benton’s family came into the Southwest Safety Hub to tell West Vernor Civilian Patrol (WVCP) that their loved one was missing and was last known to be in Southwest Detroit. With WVCP’s support the story was covered on the news and a community search was conducted with neighborhood volunteers. In the process of this search, WVCP facilitated the identification and reporting of two young men who appeared to be connected with Benton’s disappearance. The young men were arrested and brought in for questioning, then formally charged with Benton’s murder. WVCP stood by the family during the emotional trial for the two individuals. The WVCP, a community patrol group, helped a family receive closure.
The WCVP was a part of/supported by the community organization, Congress of Communities.
- What was new about the civic engagement needs of the West Vernor community and what was similar to challenges of the past?
- What were all the different kinds of civic engagement tactics the West Vernor community used to create change?