Volunteers with Salt Lake City's Mobile Neighborhood Watch program will hit the streets next week beefed up with new equipment to help them fight crime.
AT&T Wireless Services donated 32 additional cellular telephones, auto adapters and vehicle identification signs. The company also will provide service at reduced rates.The donation means the volunteer program will have a total of 47 cellular telephones for its neighborhood patrols.
Mayor Deedee Corradini credits the mobile watch program with reducing residential burglaries 47 percent in participating neighborhoods. Car prowls and break-ins have declined 27 percent.
Volunteers like Kathy Gunn, who's been with the program since it began in 1993, say the cellular telephones are invaluable.
Recently, Gunn and another volunteer were patrolling the Rose Park area when they spotted a vehicle careening down a street. The volunteers began following the car.
At one point the male driver stopped the vehicle, got out and began yelling at a passenger. He then got back in and continued driving erratically through the neighborhood, running red lights and stop signs.
The volunteers used their cellular telephone to call police, who stopped the vehicle. It turned out to be a domestic dispute.
"His girlfriend was in the car, and he had her arm twisted in the steering wheel, trying to break it while he punched her in the face," Gunn said.
Gunn has since learned the woman left the abusive boyfriend.
"I thought that was great. If we hadn't had those phones, that never would have happened," said Gunn, who now works for the city as secretary for the mobile watch program.
Twelve neighborhoods in Salt Lake City have active mobile watch programs. The city is splitting two programs - Sugarhouse and Rose Park - because they've grown so large, Gunn said. It also may split the Avenues into two groups.
New mobile watch programs are starting in the East Central area and Central City.
About 120 people participate in the Rose Park mobile watch program. Volunteers often patrol the area 24 hours a day, with two to three volunteer vehicles cruising streets some nights, Gunn said.