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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Bronzeville Neighbors Band Together To Patrol Gas Stations, Other Carjacking Hot Spots — And They’re Seeking More Volunteers

"There's this narrative that men in our communities don't care, that they aren't invested," Watch Guard's founder said. "The idea is to push back on that."

Watch Guard volunteers have been patrolling gas stations in Bronzeville to keep residents safe.
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BRONZEVILLE — Watch Guard, a citizen patrol group, is recruiting people to join weekend surveillance of Bronzeville gas stations in hopes of keeping carjackings down.

A team of eight to 10 volunteers has spent the past 15 weeks standing watch at stations on 31st Street and Michigan Avenue, 35th Street and King Drive and 43rd and State streets. They also do foot patrols in the area, hoping their efforts can prevent carjackings after those crimes soared in 2020.

Watch Guard team member Andre Russell thinks their work to keep neighbors safe is paying off locally. Carjackings citywide have fallen 86 percent since January, according to ABC7.

“I definitely give us credit. Having extra pairs of eyes definitely makes a difference. It lets people know that they can’t do certain things because somebody is going to be watching,” Russell said. “Just being out there for safety just helps out overall.”

The team meets at a designated location 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays; afterward, they debrief at the Marcus Garvey Center. While the group has grown — volunteers are encouraged to bring a friend each week — Russell and Watch Guard leader Marquinn McDonald hope to recruit more men since so many women have joined.

“The optics are important. There’s this narrative that men in our communities don’t care, that they aren’t invested. The idea is to push back on that,” McDonald said

People interested in joining Watch Guard will have to go through a background check and a six-week training program in which they’ll learn crisis intervention — and first response care from UMedics, McDonald said.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Watch Guard, visit its website.

McDonald said the men who have joined the Saturday patrols have formed a sort of brotherhood, usually sharing a meal over a conversation after a shift.

While the openings for the Saturday patrol team are temporary, McDonald will make a bigger push to add permanent volunteers as summer approaches.

McDonald started monitoring the streets with a smaller group of residents after the unrest in May. They deescalated more than a dozen situations and helped several people avoid jail, he said. They added in the gas station watches in recent months.

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