"We do not want to confront people. We just want to get to know the people in our neighborhood," said Pam, one of the founders of Downtown Jersey City Watch, which is a grassroots organization made up of downtown residents who have all been victims of crime.
Some in the patrol group requested that their last names not be used in this article.
Pam said there are hundreds of members who communicate via e-mail. They make notes of any suspicious activity or unusual sightings in the neighborhood so that if a crime occurs, the written observations can be submitted to the police as evidence.
To start off Monday night, two members of the Watch - Amy and Heidi - were joined by two members of the Jersey City Chapter of the Guardian Angels, as well as Ryan and Sonia, a couple who resides on Grove Street.
They all met at the Beechwood Café on Grove Street where they went over their patrol plans for the evening.
Ryan and Sonia have lived in Jersey City for about three years and their car has been broken into at least six times.
"Just recently, someone smashed the window of my 1994 Hyundai Avalon and took the radio and the button to the air conditioner," said Ryan. "After a while, you get tired of paying $100 or more to get your window fixed."Out on patrol
On Monday night, the patrol started on Grove Street, where they gave out flyers advertising National Night Out on Aug. 1. National Night Out is a police event that has been held the first Tuesday of every August since 1984. It aims to increase awareness about police programs such as drug prevention, town watch, and other anti-crime efforts through block parties and festivals that day.
The group made their way down Grove Street, and Pam noticed immediately that the stretch between York and Grand streets had poor lighting.
She then wrote down the identification number of the streetlight to inform Public Service Electric & Gas to either fix the light or install a new one.
The Guardian Angels always stay at the back of the group.
"Whenever we do these patrols, the Guardian Angels always have our back, making sure to prevent any attacks on us," said Pam.
Guardian Angel Mark Adams, also known as "Barrio," is the leader of the Jersey City Chapter of the Guardian Angels, which covers Jersey City, Newark, and parts of New York City. He is enthusiatic about going on the patrols.
"This is great. I love seeing people come together like this and working to make their communities safer," said Mark. "This helps the Guardian Angels with their job in patrolling the Downtown area.
There are approximately 20 Guardian Angels in the Jersey City Chapter, which includes several Jersey City residents.
The chapter formed earlier this year in response to two muggings of women in Downtown Jersey City.
Walking with Mark was Rico, a 20-year-old resident of the city's Greenville section. Joining the group later was Mike, a Guardian Angel who was not wearing the Angels' colors because he just came home from work. Dimebags and boys on bikes
On Barrow Street, the group noticed the overgrowth of trees blocking out the streetlights.
"Need to call Public Works to get the trees trimmed," said Pam.
Mike then saw a "dime bag," which is a small plastic bag that usually contains $10 worth of illegal drugs.
"Most people at this time of night would just walk by, but I have been trained to look in all directions," said Mike.
Pam also said that a gray apartment building on the corner of Barrow and Mercer streets is where drugs have been sold.
The group then goes to the corner of Barrow Street and Christopher Columbus Drive, crossing over to go toward Newark Avenue. The group tried not to patrol too long because of the hot weather.
As they walked up Newark Avenue, they continued handing out flyers for National Night Out. They also made note of some young men they saw riding bikes.
The Watch was a bit concerned because sometimes groups of youngsters ride their bikes to look for area drug dealers.
Mike singled out one young man they passed but Rico commented that he is merely "a friend."
"Many times when you're coming home from work, a lot of times you don't always take note of your surroundings," said Ryan. "These patrols are a good way to become more observant."
Amy said that since she started going on these patrols, she has taken a few minutes to drive around her neighborhood to observe any activity when coming home from work.
The patrol ended at the PATH station on Grove Street, where they spot more streetlights that were not lit. For more information on the Downtown Jersey City Watch, e-mail at email@example.com. There is a monthly meeting on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at Grace Van Vorst Church, 39 Erie St. Their next meeting is on Aug. 14 where the guest speaker will be Hudson County Prosecutor Edward J. DeFazio. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org