Homeowners armed with rifles, body armor and marked vehicles patrol their neighborhoods
SAN ANTONIO – As they patrol their Northwest Bexar County neighborhoods, a group of armed homeowners is putting criminals on notice.
A former army infantryman who lives in the Cobblestone neighborhood off Culebra Road started the Crime Deterrence Unit there in September. A number of car break-ins and a shooting near his home led to the group’s formation. He asked to go by only his first name, Bryan.
“You gotta be nuts to come to Cobblestone and think you’re going to steal stuff, honestly,” Bryan said.
Since September, he’s recruited 20-plus volunteers and expanded to 10 more neighborhoods and six businesses in the area.
“Everyone that serves in our group is a member of one of these neighborhoods,” said a volunteer who gave only his first name, Andy, “so we live here. It’s not like we just decided this is a high-crime area, we need to go serve here.”
They suit up in body armor, carry rifles and communicate through radios. Their vehicles are marked with CDU signage. Bryan said the volunteers don’t usually wear masks.
On a recent Sunday morning, about 10 men in three vehicles patrolled a handful of neighborhoods. Four guys walked on or near the sidewalk, someone in a car followed behind and a man in a pickup truck drove ahead of them as the scout unit.
The other vehicle stopped by certain homes that have filled out paperwork with the group allowing volunteers to act as the homeowner, Bryan said.
A former military police officer who declined to provide his name said some people are surprised and shocked.
“We still get that reaction – who are these guys, and what are they doing here?” he said.
Members of the Crime Deterrence Unit say they’re protecting their properties and their neighbors from becoming victims.
“We do train people on felony arrest techniques and tactical handcuffing,” Bryan said.
A citizen’s arrest is legal when an individual witnesses a felony in progress.
“If we do see a felony in progress, we are going to react to that and we’re going to effect an arrest,” he said.
Bryan said volunteers will shoot if their lives are threatened.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, whose deputies are responsible for protecting the area where the CDU operates, said: “Of course, we would prefer that they would call us if time allows and that they would be good witnesses rather than taking the law into their own hands.”
“Of course, they’re concerned,” Bryan said. “They’re all going to be concerned a little bit because this isn’t something you see every day. I don’t even think this is something going on anywhere else in the country right now.”
Bryan said some types of crimes, particularly theft, have decreased in the areas they serve.
Statistics from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office show the two service areas that include the CDU’s neighborhoods have actually seen an increase in crime. From January to April 2015, BCSO tallied 445 violent crimes, property crimes and drug-related crimes. During the same four months in 2017, a total of 616 crimes occurred.
The statistics, however, represent a much larger area of Northwest Bexar County than the neighborhoods being patrolled by the Crime Deterrence Unit.
"Lord help you if we run into you," Bryan said. "Hopefully, if you’re lucky, the cops will run into you before we will."
To date, the CDU has had no violent confrontations, Bryan said.
More information on the group is available at their website, cdupatrol.com.
They cover these neighborhoods:
- Silver Oaks
- Stillwater Ranch
- Riverstone at Alamo Ranch
- Summit One at Alamo Ranch
- Terraces at Alamo Ranch
- Wildhorse off Shaenfield Road
- Bridgewood off Shaenfield Road
- Country Oaks off Talley Road
- Waterford Park off FM 471
- J Bar Ranch off Talley Road