Organizers of a recently revived Capitol Hill safety patrol say they’re flush with enthusiasm, now they just need some feet on the ground. In March CHS reported on the formation of OutWatch at Dr. Jen’s House of Beauty, the group’s informal headquarters, following a spat of LGBT targeted street violence on Capitol Hill.
Organizer Dr. Jennifer Dietrich had planned to get safety patrols out and patrolling a week after the initial meeting, but said more volunteers are still needed.
“There is a tremendous amount needed to get this off the ground, but we’ve done most of it,” she said. “Once we get enough volunteers, we can start patrolling immediately.”
Those interested in joining OutWatch can stop into Dr. Jen’s or contact Dietrich directly. Dietrich said OutWatch already has t-shirts designed, Zipcars to shuttle drag performers and others to and from gigs, and planned patrol routes. The plan is for members to walk Capitol Hill beats from 10 PM – 3 AM in groups of four, wear OutWatch shirts, and carry mace. Dietrich said she wants all members to receive some self defense training, but that having a public presence will be the most important deterrent to would-be criminals.
The original Q-Safety Patrol was formed in 1991 in response to a rash of gay bashings that organizers felt police were unwilling or incapable of preventing. The original group was trained by the New York City-based Guardian Angels and adopted their signature berets.
In 1996 an up-and-coming Lt. Jim Pugel, then running the East Precinct’s community policing team, gave credit to the group for drastically reducing reported hate crimes in the city. Precinct leaders more recently have been less keen on the idea saying that the patrols could put un-trained citizens at risk and spark confrontations.
You can learn more on the OutWatch Facebook page.