Beijing residents are playing an increasingly important role in helping police keep the city safe, according to the capital's security authorities.
Over the past 10 years, volunteers have provided vital tips that have prevented crimes and maintained public order, the city government's Political and Legal Affairs Commission said.
By the end of last year, 850,000 residents had registered with the commission as "safety volunteers", with the actual number closer to about 1.4 million, the authority said in a statement.
"The force from residents, especially the safety volunteers, taking part in the city's safety governance has become stronger," it said.
In an interview with Beijing News, Xu Jihui, deputy director of the commission, said more residents, including the young generation savvy with technology, have joined the team to keep the city safe.
"As more residents become safety volunteers, how to manage this group of people has been a hot topic the commission is studying," he said.
"What we want is to let the volunteers find more problems or suspicious behaviors, instead of solving them directly. We ask them to report to police in a timely manner, and not to fight crimes alone."
The commission has improved the registration of volunteers and made files for them, "hoping to better rule them in a professional way", Xu added.
The most well-known group of volunteers is in Chaoyang district. As of December, they numbered 140,000, supplying nearly 20,000 tips to police each month, most among which were e-bicycle thefts and pickpockets, according to the district's public security department.
More than 8,300 pieces of information were valuable, the departments said, adding that based on the information they solved more than 370 cases, detained more than 250 suspects and defused more than 390 potential dangerous situations.
A woman surnamed Wang, 71, is one of the district's safety volunteers who helped crack a case. After noticing a young man who moved into her community alone but often ordered seven or eight sets of takeout food, she reported to the police in May.
After a preliminary investigation, the man was found to be a member of gang that allegedly organized prostitution in the rented apartment, the police said.
The suspect, with another two, were criminally detained, while another 12 people were given administrative detention, it added.
Police in Haidian district also arrested nine people suspected of drug purchases and seized 23.2 grams of drugs on Jan 10 after receiving residents' clues, according to the authority.
Ruan Chuansheng, a criminal law professor at Shanghai Administration Institute, said encouraging residents to jointly keep a city safe is necessary to extend across the country, "as it can assist police in finding clues and is also the implementation of rule of law through joint efforts".
But he noted the inadequate number of police officers - an issue that the public often talks about and is confirmed by the authorities - cannot be solved by the increasing number of safety volunteers.
The shortage should be solved with a more reasonable and scientific personnel arrangement, as police with their professional investigation skills cannot be replaced by others, he added.