Preston Hollow just became safer.


Nearly 50 recruits became official Volunteers in Patrol in September—the largest VIP induction in the city’s history. So large, in fact, that the training class had to be moved from the North Central Police Substation to city hall.


The basic premise of VIP is for residents to regularly patrol their neighborhoods in groups of two, carrying cell phones and driving a vehicle with an attachable flashing light and door signs identifying those inside as Volunteers in Patrol. They are trained never leave their car. If volunteers see suspicious activity, they are taught to call police.


From the looks of the training class, attended mostly by North Dallas and Preston Hollow residents, people believe the program makes a difference.


Veteran volunteer and neighborhood resident Ed Fox, who spreads the VIP gospel almost nightly at neighborhood meetings, credited the surge in recruits to the program’s success in lowering crime rates.


North Dallas ’ Spring Creek Estates, where the program originated 13 years ago, has watched its annual crime incidents decrease by as much as 80 percent as a result of patrols.


 “It does work,” Fox says. “The statistics don’t lie.”


Terri Hornberger attended the training session as the lone resident from Melshire Estates. She heard about VIP at a neighborhood crime watch meeting and decided it needed to be implemented.


“We’re right off

Preston Road

, so people cut through our neighborhood to go here and yon, and with crime moving north, we’re perfect targets,” Hornberger says.


She rattled off a list of problems in her area — burglary, vandalism, even gunshots being fired.


“It’s scary. The older I get, the more vulnerable I feel personally, so I start thinking about crime a lot differently,” Hornberger says.


Anita Rager decided to become a VIP because she has seen the effects of the program in her neighborhood, Glen Cove . She and others at September’s training increased Glen Cove ’s volunteer pool by 25 percent. 


“When people see the car going around with the lights flashing on top of it, it alerts people that this neighborhood is not a place for criminals,” Rager says.


The real estate changes in Dallas are resulting in less familiarity with people who live in your neighborhood, says Earl Thomas, a Valley View recruit. Throw in the busy lifestyles of people who work in a metropolitan area, and “all of a sudden your neighbors become strangers,” he says.


But VIP forces residents to get to know the strangers next door. As Thomas is paired with other volunteers for patrol shifts, he knows he will start watching out for them.


Neighborhood unification is a natural VIP byproduct, Fox says. The barriers break down, the stereotypes collapse, and in their place emerges a human blockade that keeps the criminals out.


Fox believes the program will only become bigger.


“We’re seeing a rash of things like criminal mischief and vandalism, and I think people are beginning to get just a little bit tired of that,” Fox says.


Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.