Petaluma is a small town in California of roughly 57,000 residences. It is known for being a film location for several movies such as Scream, Pleasantville, Basic Instinct, and many others. It is also getting more attention from everyone around the country because of their protector, Batman!
On December 22, 2012, a young man believing that anyone can be a hero decided to suit up and spread his message in his hometown of Petaluma. He attends college during the day and at night he patrols downtown Petaluma on his electric scooter making sure the streets stay safe. He does not have the resources Bruce Wayne has. His costume is merely made up of black pants, a black T-shirt with a shiny, black Batman emblem over the top of a black, long sleeve thermal and sweatshirt. A yellow belt, black thermal gloves and a Batman mask and a cape.
This is not the story of someone trying to be a vigilante and take the law into his own hands. Petaluma Batman patrols the streets but will gladly call the police if he runs into criminal activity. Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons stated that none of the Petaluma officers have had cause to take issue with him so far. “We would only be concerned if he takes any action and gets involved himself,” said Lyons. “But if he’s just walking around, staging fake fights and having fun, we’re fine with that.” When the Petaluma police department sees Petaluma Batman out patrolling, they usually give him the thumbs up and tell him that he is doing a good job.
Besides patrolling the streets, Petaluma Batman also helped search for his former classmate Alyssa Byrne, whose body was later found in Lake Tahoe. The small-town superhero alerted many residents to her disappearance by posting flyers on telephone poles as well. Petaluma Batman also participates in several events for charity. He engages in mock battles and stages choreographed fights with “Petaluma Joker” and “Petaluma Penguin” much to the delight of his growing fan base of 7000+ on his Facebook page.
When Petaluma Batman is not out protecting the citizens of Petaluma, he is a typical college student. He attends Petaluma’s Santa Rosa Junior College. After school, he heads on over to the local golf course where he works.
I had the privilege of interviewing Petaluma Batman and get to know him a little better. Below is that interview.
How long have you been doing this?
I made the Facebook page December 22nd, 2012
How many hours a week do you dedicate to this?
Usually on Fridays and Saturdays 2 hours each night, and whatever community events or fundraisers I have during the week.
How did you get started doing this?
Its kind of funny how it all got started. My friends dad who had a horrible batman costume thought it would be funny if I made a Facebook page, kind of a joke between mutual friends, but then it became so much more than that. People really started to get it and understand what it was really all about.
It seems like you have the support of the community and even the Petaluma Police Department. Do you run into people that give you a hard time over being the Petaluma Batman?
Yeah a little bit in the beginning and every now and then, in the beginning, people were like what is this guy doing, he’s just doing it for the attention. It was kind of for fun in the beginning to show the community its kind of a fun thing but then it became so much more than that. People really started to get it and understand what it’s all about.
That leads into my next question. How did you come across as an asset to the community instead of a crack?
It’s neat because everybody knows Batman. Batman is an example of the super powerful heroes. He doesn’t have any powers, he a normal person like you and me. I use that as a symbol to show that anybody can be a hero and do good in the community. It turned out to be pretty powerful and I just try to keep on inspiring that anyone can be a hero and do good things. The kids like it, they can relate to it, even the adults too.
I see you do a lot of events for charity, what’s been the event you have participated in that has been the most rewarding thus far?
I had this contest called “A Hero Can Be Anyone” Basically you had to send a message in about yourself or someone else that has done something to benefit the community or that has had an impact on someone elses life. There was a kid who is 92% epileptic. He is in the 10th grade. His mom nominated him. After reading all the interviews and entries I chose him. He got to be my so called “Petaluma Robin” for the night and help vanquish “Petaluma Joker.” He got a nice prize pack. It was pretty inspiring. He had a great time. It was an eye opener for me and I had a lot of fun too. The community came out and supported him. It was a lot of fun. That is the one that really hit me personally. I realized then that I was really having an impact on the community.
Speaking of Robin, any plans to have a “Robin” by your side to help with protecting Petaluma in the future?
No, we have an honorary “Petaluma Robin.” Once you get too many people it kind of starts to get out of hand. People might start actually doing bad things.
I’m sure there are plenty of ladies volunteering to be your Batgirl!
There are a couple volunteering to be Batgirl and Catwoman. It is totally humbling and everything but I told them to make a difference in your family’s life and your life as well.
The public knows very little about your real identity, may I ask what your major is in college?
Business and marketing.
Have you encountered any dangerous situations yet?
No Petaluma is a town of 50,000 people but it’s a large town so it’s pretty spread out. There’s not a whole lot of severe gang activity or anything really bad. There is the occasional drunk guy yelling something he shouldn’t be, but that’s the alcohol talking more than him.
I’ve read that there are a handful of your friends that know your real identity, does your family know that you are the Petaluma Batman?
Yes my family does know and my small group of friends know.
What does your family think about it?
They thought I was crazy at first, but I think they are really starting to get it now. My dad I don’t know so much. It’s funny how they all found out. My little brother was checking the Facebook page and he was looking at it on my mom’s computer. She asked “who’s that?” And he said “Well that’s your son!” Then I come in around 11:30 at night, it was the second week I started going out. My dad is just sitting there in the chair and I was like “Hey dad I’ll talk to you in the morning” As I’m walking up the stairs I turned around and he said “We know.” That was an awkward breakfast the next morning.
Do you have a “normal” route that you patrol when you are on duty or is it kind of random where you end up?
Yeah mostly downtime Petaluma and I get around on my electric scooter or I just travel around on foot.
Have you had to call the police on anyone yet?
No, the Petaluma Police Department does such a great job. There have been no physical altercations. There’s been really nothing to speak of since I have been out there the last few months. It’s good to be able to grow up in a community like that where I don’t really have to put my life on the line.
The message that he is trying to spread is a powerful one: Anyone can be a hero. You don’t necessarily have to wear a mask to do it. Volunteering in your community for something you believe in, helping an elderly person sit down with her tray at a restaurant and getting everything she needs, simply holding a door for someone, these are all a few of the small things we can do every day to be a “hero” for someone else.
Below is a video of Petaluma Batman talking about what he is doing. You can also follow the adventures of Petaluma Batman by liking his Facebook page located here.
Do you have your own version of a “Petaluma Batman” in your community? If so, let me know!
Have a story that needs to be told? Let Tim know! Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/tsmartin75 or on Twitter @tsmartin