The LAPD has long been tasked with meeting the law enforcement needs of an area in which the population’s growth far exceeds that of its available officer corps. While their commendable efforts have met with varying degrees of success over the years, 2015’s recent upticks in violent crimes spurred the department to train volunteers to patrol San Fernando Valley streets.

The program is the first of its kind and consists of a 15-person unit of volunteer citizens and 2 patrol cars. The volunteers will not carry guns, nor will they be tasked with physically intervening in any suspected criminal activity. Instead, they have been trained by the LAPD to patrol neighborhoods with their eyes and ears open, and use their radios to inform police of anything they find suspicious. The citizens will cruise their designated areas in patrol cars equipped with working lights and the LAPD’s police badge painted on the side.

In 2015, property crime fell about 1.1%, but violent crime rose 13.5%, which resulted in an overall crime increase of roughly 2%. The volunteer program is designed to give the LAPD an increased presence in areas that were hit by property crimes last year.

Violent crimes often happen spontaneously and thus require a reactionary police response. For example, if a man were to get into an argument with his wife, then hit her, she would (ideally) call the police who would show up, investigate, and take the suspect into custody. Another example would be two individuals drinking at a sports bar during a big game. Individual A stokes the ire of individual B by insulting individual B’s team, and the two end up in a fist fight. The bartender calls the police who show up and take one (or both) individuals into custody.

In both of the above cases, the police arrive on the scene after the alleged violent crime has already occurred. It’s nigh impossible for police to be able to stop all violent crimes unless there’s literally a police officer stationed within shouting distance of everyone, everywhere. Property crime, though, relies far more heavily on being able to get in and out quickly; hopefully without being noticed. The more eyes the LAPD has on the street, the more likely they are to notice a potential crime in progress and be able to respond accordingly.

Aside from police being able to spot would-be criminals, volunteer patrols also enable said individuals to spot the police, thereby greatly reducing the likelihood that the crime will be carried out at all.