The City Safety Patrol have been roaming the streets of Bristol for 20 years, but their work has also taken them to Palestine, Jamaica and received recognition from the United Nations. The group has developed from the early days when the founder, the Rev. Dr. Dawnecia Palmer, ran groups in areas of St Pauls that were considered off limits to police officers.
Volunteer patrolmen are trained to assist in places where a conflict may arise. Sometimes just making your presence known is enough to increase security or help defuse a tense situation. From local football matches to anti-bullying initiatives in schools, their work over the years has brought them into contact with a variety of groups and communities across Bristol.
It all started in the early 2000s when Reverend Palmer wanted to take positive steps to reduce knife crime. “I thought we could be a presence (on the streets) and speak directly to the perpetrators. When I went there on my own, I wasn’t intimidated, but I could tell that they were vulnerable,” Reverend Palmer explains.
READ MORE: The patrolmen who have been fighting crime in Bristol for 20 years
The core ethos is one of compassion, and Reverend Palmer felt that if they could be a group that saw the humanity in people, tensions could be reduced and crime would be reduced accordingly. “He was talking to a guy and he told me: ‘You are the first vicar to come to talk to us, why didn’t he come before?’
“I realized that these guys were only human and they just wanted help. There was a reason they were there and that’s where it started.
“The compassion of seeing value beyond crime. There was almost a cry for help,” the Rev. Palmer continued.
Being a reverend, in his childhood all the volunteers were trained in a Christian spirit and while the group’s original ‘Prayer Patrol’ has not disappeared, the City Safety Patrol is non-religious and open to all. The group has also expanded their geographical reach and they focus on various locations around Bristol as well as unique events and incidents when called upon to do so.
Reverend Palmer hopes that people of different backgrounds can unite under the banner of ‘safety patrollers’. Volunteers can be of any or no religious background and even children can participate if they are with their parents.
Reverend Palmer said: “We are called wherever there is a situation. My rules are strict about how to approach people and when not to approach people.
“We would really like to see some young people involved (as well as) grandmas and grandpas. They were the ones who helped us in St Pauls to make a difference because nobody hurts them.
“I would like to encourage mothers to come out of the closet, when their children see them, they will not want to continue with any crime and it is something positive that they are also doing. You can go out for 30 minutes if you want, you can go out for an hour, two or half a day when it’s hotter and we do different events in the city.
“Many people think that you have to be religious, but in reality it is not like that. Normally, people think that prayer is something where you fold your hands and go to church, but it doesn’t have to be something religious, it can be goodwill to others, intention.”
City security patrolmen currently work in ten areas of Bristol, which include parts of eastern Bristol and the city centre. Anyone with an interest in promoting safety in the city can participate, as long as they are not currently involved in crime or substance abuse.
For more information on becoming a City Safety Patroller or to discuss collaborative work, you can contact Rev Palmer via the contact form or number on his website or via email: [email protected] com