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Vigilance or Vigilantes?

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But Ron Walker, a former bartender at Shorty's, questions Fox's motives, and his goals.

"I'm certain there is a need for the Foxes in the world, but he can't trash a bar that's been in the neighborhood for over 30 years for the sake of his ego," Walker says.

Emerson and Walker are hardly the only critics of Neighbors on Patrol.
Richard Fox, president of the city's Block Watch advisory board, a volunteer group that serves as a liaison between neighborhoods and the police department, also questions the tactics of Neighbors on Patrol. Fox (no relation to Neighbors on Patrol leader Harold Fox) says he had no idea that members of Neighbors on Patrol carried guns until he was asked about the practice for this article.

"A lot of what he [Harold Fox] does is helpful and productive, but there is a line he is crossing, and once he has crossed that line, he is no longer getting people to work together to solve the problem," Richard Fox says. "He stubbornly and impatiently and inappropriately is demanding a solution."

Neighbors on Patrol is not affiliated with Block Watchers on Patrol, an organization of citizens trained by the Phoenix Police Department to patrol their neighborhoods in a "nonconfrontational and low-risk manner."

Members of Block Watchers on Patrol are strictly prohibited from carrying guns, and vigilante activity is strongly discouraged.

Even police commander Ron Bates, who is generally supportive of Neighbors on Patrol, questions the group's penchant for carrying guns.

Although it is not police-sanctioned, Neighbors on Patrol received $10,000 this year in city Block Watch funds. The group used the money to pay for cellular phones and other equipment.

Now, Richard Fox says he hopes city officials will draw new guidelines for monitoring the Block Watch grant process. He says his committee will strongly consider advising the city council not to give money to gun-toting groups like Neighbors on Patrol.

"I don't want to see a movement of this type growing citywide," Richard Fox says.

The criticisms of Neighbors on Patrol do not appear likely to deter its members from their regular rounds. They insist they have broken no laws--it is, after all, legal to carry registered guns in Arizona--and they don't seem to care if others consider their group a vigilante committee.

In fact, they seem to relish the controversy that comes their way.
"We're just a group of concerned citizens trying to take our neighborhood back from the dirt bags," Patrick Walsh says. "And if that makes us vigilantes, then so be it. Just make sure you spell my name right.

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Betty Mihalopoulos