Castro patrol celebrates 10 years

  • by Greg Carey
  • Wednesday December 14, 2016
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The Castro Community on Patrol was founded in 2006 in response to reports of several violent street robberies accompanied by sexual assaults. Carlton Paul, with close ties to the leather community, quickly found a number of people who took up the mantra: "This should not be happening in our neighborhood." We soon had over 100 volunteers. This visible response caused the original problem to dissipate. After about six months, many of the early volunteers felt the work was finished and turned their energy to other priorities.

A few of us realized that this work is never really finished. We now have a smaller number of patrollers who are still very dedicated to our mission. The underlying need comes from the constant fear-mongering of a few vocal and well-funded political and religious groups that consistently use the LGBT community as a distraction from real issues, especially during presidential election cycles. This scapegoating makes it likely that the Castro might become a target for groups who either want to film extreme street drama or plan harm to our neighbors in order to make their point. So, we kept Castro Patrol viable through the years following Proposition 8 as a deterrent to groups who might want to make the Castro a focal point for opposition to accepting equality. Our high visibility in the streets, along with coverage on television news, served as a reminder that we were ready to take care of the residents and visitors to the LGBT neighborhood. Fortunately, the events leading up to the 30,000 people who celebrated the Prop 8 Supreme Court victory a few years ago involved no violence.

We now need extra care after this year's contentious presidential election. It once again calls for a very visible safety presence for the next six to 12 months. If our approach to prevention works again, we can keep hate mongers from using the Castro as a target. If they do bring violence, we are trained and ready to work with legal authorities and the courts as needed to protect everyone in the community.

Ten years later, we make every effort to get patrols on the street as often as possible based on volunteer availability. We are often first reporters to violent events, such as assaults, robberies, or vandalism. We also respond frequently to medical situations, such as overly intoxicated clubbers, accidents, or individual health crises. We devote a lot of non-patrol activity to prevention and education. We have placed over 90,000 safety whistles and 150,000 Clubbers Safety Guides into the hands of the public, and have trained more than 500 people in personal safety through our free self-defense workshops.

We are always ready to act as a liaison between members of the public when dealing with the police department or district attorney's office. Sometimes, this just involves understanding how the legal system works. At other times, it may involve someone who feels they were not treated fairly as the victim of a crime. If you need our help, please send details to: mailto:[email protected] so we can follow up and help you through what may be a complicated or stressful situation.

More importantly, we have formed a broad safety coalition with other groups, including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in the Stop the Violence project; the San Francisco Police Department, through the SFPD Chief's LGBT Community Advisory Forum; the district attorney's office, through its LGBT Advisory Program; and a dozen other organizations and neighborhood associations that are part of Castro Cares, which implements innovative solutions to quality of life issues.

We also work closely with neighborhood businesses through the Castro Business Watch, which is a program of SF-SAFE (San Francisco Safety Awareness for Everyone that also operates the city's Neighborhood Watch programs). CBW, in conjunction with managers of 80 locations, works to reduce crimes that affect the viability of small businesses. Through this collaborative work, the district attorney has been able to obtain "public nuisance" stay-away orders from two individuals who had a history of escalating violent crimes that endangered workers and shoppers. We continue to work with SF-SAFE's business experts to help CBW members improve the safety of their locations, including the better use of security cameras to document crimes when they occur.

We always need new volunteers to continue our work. The next training date is Saturday, January 21. Reserve a seat by visiting our website at We also ask for your tax-deductible donations to help pay for things like safety whistles and literature. You can use the "donate" tab on our website, and please remember to enter CCOP in the "honoree" box. As we move into our second decade, we look forward to working with each of you in a variety of ways.


Greg Carey joined the San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team and became a volunteer with the Castro Community on Patrol in 2007. He became the CCOP chief of patrol in 2008 and was named "Saint Watchful Eyes of the Castro Beat" of the Order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in 2012. His main passion involves improving community safety and he is currently part of seven different public service organizations.