The Red Shirt campaign will see volunteers patrol the playground outside the Carleton Community Centre. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

Saint John Police are warning a west side community group that is planning patrols of a local playground not to confront anyone they suspect of criminal activity.

Members of the Lower Westians say the park outside of the Carleton Community Centre has become a gathering place for teenagers and bad behaviour, including drinking and drug use, property damage, and intimidating young children and their parents.

Starting on May 11, volunteers wearing red shirts plan to patrol the area in pairs between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and tell misbehaving youth to leave.

Sgt. David Hartley-Brown, the supervisor of the community services unit with Saint John Police Force, says cleaning up bad behaviour is one thing.

But if youth are involved in criminal behaviour, that's a job for the police, he said.

"To engage an older teen or adult … that might be using drugs, or open liquor, or doing something that's criminal, or causing damage, it's probably best to stay back, report the incident and have the police come by and do the investigation," said Hartley-Brown.

"To engage those people or to try and apprehend them would put them at risk," Hartley-Brown stressed.

He plans to meet with the "Red Shirt" organizers to discuss their intentions.

The most important thing, he said, is to educate the public about the group before members start patrolling the park.

Meanwhile, the Red Shirt volunteers say they plan to take a self-defence course, just in case they end up in a situation that turns physical.