by Linda Mumma

LODI (CBS13) — With homelessness and crime on the rise in San Joaquin County, cities like Lodi are bringing back citizen patrols. Some businesses are turning to the Guardian Angels.

With their red berets, white t-shirts, and black cargo pants, the volunteers with the newly-formed Lodi chapter of the Guardian Angels patrol the downtown Lodi area.

Leah Suelter, the owner of Fashionable You Boutique, said it’s nice to have an extra set of eyes around town. Business owners like Suelter said they were so distraught over the recent rise in crime and homelessness, they called the group in Sacramento for help.

“When I was on Sacramento Street, we were broken into in January by a frequent flyer and unfortunately the DA dropped him for a different drug charge and kept releasing him and he was able to commit more and more burglaries until eventually now he has an arson charge,” Suelter said.

For about the last month, new recruits have gathered at Suelter’s store to undergo training.

“We had a huge community meeting when we first brought the concept here to Lodi and out of that, we had seven or eight, which is a good number,” said Guardian Angels coordinator Patrick Kent.

The recruits are learning everything from de-escalation tactics to self-defense, and how to properly make a citizen’s arrest.

“That’s one of the biggest things right now is really encouraging people if they see a crime… make sure you do it the right way and sign that citation,” Kent said.

The group is trying to grow and is raising awareness with the help of a Facebook page. Recruits must be at least 16 years old, pass a background check, and undergo about six months of training.

“We get a lot of feedback [from] businesses, community. We’re very transparent so we post a lot of what we’re doing,” Kent said.

It’s a grassroots effort to ensure people’s safety and serve as a visual deterrent to crime.

“It’s been great having them around because we’re not having to call police for every small thing,” Suelter said.

The Guardian Angels say in most cases, the people they come in contact with want help for things like homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence.

You can follow the Lodi Guardian Angels here.