Enlisting young people as active partners in building a safer school increases their commitment to prevention, provides additional help in spotting trouble or possible trouble, and reduces fear and crime. That’s why many schools have sponsored student patrols.
The concept is simple: young people work together in a formal structure, with help from adults, to:
a. Patrol their campus in pairs or small groups.
b. Act non-confrontationally to help maintain order.
c. Enforce rules.
d. Report crime or crime-threatening situations.
It is important to stress that patrol members are not tasked to apprehend criminals. Their role is to report incidents and information to the proper authorities who will determine the criticality of the situation and respond accordingly. Patrol members may serve as mediators with proper training. The patrol members may help with prevention education for students and staff. Many patrols in high schools assist with security at school events. Many take their names from the school’s mascot, which builds school bonds and strengthens school spirit.
Six Ways Youth Patrol Strengthen School and Community Security
There are at least six ways that student patrols strengthen the school’s security:
• Youth – both in and out of the patrol – take greater ownership of the school community because they see adults as willing to share the responsibility with them.
• Peers can be more effective than adults in working with other youth, especially with proper training.
• Patrol members help set standards and expectations for peers’behaviour.
• Patrol members, being trained observers, increase the safety of all in the school by noting and reporting not just specific crimes or rules violations, but problems that could lead to crime.
• An active, successful patrol encourages other students to report crimes and crime-in-the-making.
• A well-structured patrol, one that involves a wide cross-section of the student body, builds a sense of unity and community among students.
Are patrols effective? Youth Crime Watch schools at all levels – elementary, secondary and tertiary – started patrols because they saw the need and sustained them because they saw results. Patrols have stopped unauthorized visitors, including those with criminal intent, from coming onto school property. They’ve alerted authorities to impending fights that were nipped in the bud. Their presence has reduced fighting, vandalism, and parental worries. In short, patrols meet a wide range of real needs in all kinds of schools.
Putting Together the People, the Equipment, and the Training
People, equipment, and training are essential to a successful patrol. There are four kinds of people who need to be involved:
• Top Administrators in the school, who should be involved with the advisor and the core Youth Crime Watch or similar group in defining the patrol’s major duties and key working components. The principal and key assistant principals, the head of school security, and teaching staff should all understand and support the patrol. They should be familiar with its duties and concur in its responsibilities.
• The sponsor (or co-sponsor), who in general should be a police officer equipped by training and experience to teach and answer questions about patrol techniques and management. If the sponsor is not a police officer, the patrol should receive training from, and have an ongoing relationship with a police officer. The sponsor needs to have good skills in coaching rather than directing youth, because the patrols are designed to be youth-led. Of course, the coaching role becomes more involved the younger the patrol group. The sponsor should also know or become educated about crime prevention strategies.
• Enough qualified student members to do the jobs of the patrol. Patrol workloads need to consider students’ other obligations, including classroom work, and to ensure that there is sufficient backup to meet commitments when people are ill or otherwise unable to take part. Either membership should be increased or responsibilities should be reduced so there is a match.
• A student body that understands the patrol’s role and how it helps them, and sees the patrol as reflective of the school’s population.
Along with the right people, a patrol needs some specific materials to do its job properly. Many of these items can be donated or loaned. Generally the equipment list includes:
i. Matching T-shirts for all members of the patrol. You can use Youth Crime Watch shirts or have special shirts made.
ii. Matching dayglo orange safety vests for all members of the patrol who might be working in twilight or after dark.