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Neighbors take action to curb crime in Petersburg

PETERSBURG, Va. – The concept of a “citizen patrol” has gained traction among Petersburg residents.

"Crime has reached a tipping point and we're not going to just sit here and take it," says Mari Hardenbergh.

She is one of several homeowners actively looking into a neighborhood watch.

"I think it's a great idea," said new Petersburg homeowner Audrey Clark.

"I thought it was a great idea, I'm for it all the way," said Marta Placeres.

Clark and Placeres walked through Walnut Hill Wednesday morning, both keeping a close eye out and both willing to be part of a more organized walk through their neighborhood,

"Definitely, I will be willing to do that,” Placeres said.

Tuesday night, Hardenbergh made sure an elderly neighbor headed home had an escort.

After making the woman arrived home, Hardenbergh didn't head home, but kept patrolling.

"Taxpayers are fed up, people in Walnut Hill are tired of being disrespected,” she said.

There have been several shootings and attempted robberies in the neighborhood recently, many linked to a white vehicle.

But it’s not just Walnut Hill homeowners who are fed up; those living in the Old Towne and High Street areas are also discussing citizen patrols.

"I think the more that neighbors are out in their own community, people who are passing through, they're going to feel less brave to break into a car or some other thing, said Hope Lynch.

"You almost can't talk to somebody that doesn't have a story,” said Rachael Deeds, referring to a car break in or home burglary.

Deeds walks her neighborhood almost every day, with a very watchful eye and believes citizens patrols can work.

"Seeing someone maybe would make a criminal think twice about maybe someone is watching, maybe someone will make a phone call,” she said.

While citizens on patrol can legally be armed, the police advise against getting involved and instead said to call 911.

Some homeowners think being armed isn't a bad idea.

"I think if criminals knew that law-abiding citizens had them, again they're cowards and I don't think they'd be as tempted to take chances if they thought the community was armed.”

Hardenbergh said people are the key to making neighborhoods safe.

"We all can make a difference if we come together and you know, band together as a community."