The Bexar County Sheriff's Department is not thrilled that an armed group of San Antonio residents have begun patrolling their gated northwest neighborhood for criminal activity.
“We have no problem with neighbors who carry weapons with a license,” department Communications Officer James Keith told the Current. “But we wish they would take action in another certain way.”
The patrol group, which began their on-foot surveillance last week, live in The Oaks at Cobblestone, a gated community in a predominately white, upper-middle class area of the county—just south of the Government Canyon State Natural Area. Since the neighborhood is gated from outside traffic, law enforcement can't regularly patrol its streets, but they respond to calls for service.
Neighbors formed the patrol group after a neighborhood man said he had been shot, with his own gun, by two Hispanic men in hoodies. Police have found no footage of the alleged criminals on neighborhood security cameras. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the majority of the past month’s 510 calls made to the sheriff's office were about a “suspicious vehicle, person, or activity.” One call was made about a burglary.
“[Criminals are] flooding into our neighborhood and it’s time for us to do something about it,” Abigail, a Cobblestone resident, told the Express-News.
Keith said he’d prefer if residents formed a neighborhood watch group to alert the police when they suspected criminal activity—instead of grabbing a weapon. Many licensed gun holders do not have the same training as police officers, leaving room for a possibly-fatal mistake.
“Use your phone, not your gun,” he said. “Be our eyes and ears.”
The sheriff's department is especially uneasy with an organized, armed neighborhood group because of the dangerous role a similar patrol played in too-recent history. Keith noted that George Zimmerman, the Florida man responsible for killing Trayvon Martin, was a member of a gated community armed patrol group. He was on patrol when he shot and killed Martin, who lived in the neighborhood.
“We definitely don’t want something like that happening here,” Keith told us.