Shomrim members acknowledge that there are potential hazards in their eagerness to get involved in potentially dangerous situations. But Shomrim requires a probationary period, provides training, and has strict internal disciplinary procedures. Its members seek to serve as eyes and ears, and rarely take action. In the past, members have been dismissed for not following protocols.
"This is not 'Starsky and Hutch,' " Jacobs said. "We're regular citizens who believe in the safety and integrity of our neighborhood, and we believe in our police department. We're augmenting that."
In addition to working with city police, Shomrim has interacted with Baltimore County police, though on a more limited basis.
"We usually ask for their assistance in specific cases," said Bill Toohey, a former county police spokesman, during an interview last month. "Given their discipline and organization, they can fan out and help us find them. ... These kinds of groups supplement the police - they do not replace the police."
Delgado, who joined the city's Northwest District in 2007 after a long career in East Baltimore, said he has never seen a citizen group as active as Shomrim. When he first learned of the group, he was taken aback.
"They had jackets, unit numbers. They knew about police call signs, and how we code complaints. They knew everything from top to bottom," said Delgado. "I said, 'What the heck?' I thought something was weird."
But Delgado said the group quickly won him over. With the Police Department devoting renewed energy to developing community partnerships and asking neighborhood residents to play a bigger part in their communities, Shomrim represents the gold standard.
"With a group that motivated, you've got to utilize them," Delgado said.
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