03:29 PM EDT on Friday, August 28, 2009
By BETH SHAYNE / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Beth: BShayne@WCNC.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It began for Brian Lutes when an apparently drunk driver ended up on the curb outside his south Charlotte home in the Stonehaven subdivision off Rama Road.
“He had a bottle of Wild Turkey between his legs and a girl wearing nothing but lingerie in the passenger seat, so enough is enough,” Lutes told Newschannel 36.
He detained that driver until Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrived, and then he got busy.
Night after night, often for hours, Lutes rides his bike all over the neighborhood. Thanks to his 6 years as a cop in Pennsylvania, he wears his duty belt and carries his handgun. He has business cards and postcards he had printed and a t-shirt that says, “Stonehaven Community Patrol” and lists his phone number and e-mail address. He often stops to talk to neighbors, and checks on yards, open doors, and anything suspicious.
“I think we as citizens have to be responsible for our own communities and if we’re not, then we cannot just look to government all the time–Help us. Do this for us. We’ve got to take proactive measures in our own community and do it,” he said.
It’s the little things. Among the things he counts as successes so far: finding open doors at Rama Elementary School, staying with another apparently drunk driver who’d crashed until police arrived, and alerting neighbors when car doors were left open.
“He really volunteers a lot of his time, a lot of his time, in keeping our neighborhood safe,” his next-door neighbor Phyllis Rea said. “This is a safe neighborhood, but regardless of location, sometimes things happen….That just gives everybody a sense of peace.”
The Stonehaven area is not known for crime. CrimeTracking shows larceny from auto to be the biggest problem this year—14 incidents since January 1. There have also been several reports of vandalism and two home burglaries.
“Under North Carolina law private individuals can detain and hold for law enforcement, depending on the nature of the incident,” he explained. “If we come across somebody breaking into a car, they’ll be here when CMPD gets here.”
Lutes’ efforts are slightly different than other community groups who patrol their neighborhoods. The Windsor Park subdivision has volunteers driving the neighborhood several times a week. Organizer Jim Roberts said neighbors are encouraged to call 911 and then leave. “We want our volunteers to stay safe.”
Lutes will meet with police next Friday to talk about his efforts and coordinate. Captain Lisa Goelz tells us the department wants to make sure he’s being safe and staying within bounds.
“I decided I’ve got experience in this type of thing, so I’m going to go out and do it,” he explained. “If I can be out and just be an extra set of eyes and ears, that’s what I want to do.”