We began to research the possibilities of a Citizens On Patrol group as well as the possibilities of developing a Police Bicycle Patrol that would work hand in hand with the public to address the crime rate concerns and the fear of crime in our community.
Both programs are in place in Mountain Home at this time and have proved to be very successful.
The Next Step ...
The Citizens On Patrol would be additional eyes and ears for the police and would be non-confrontational. This is a very important element of this group, they can not be confrontational. They would have to be able to have the skills of a good observer and be able to communicate what they see to dispatch so that it can be relayed to the officer responding to the call. So recruitment for the right volunteer was essential to the formation of the Mountain Home Citizens On Patrol Group.
The first go around was challenging. Some of the volunteers wanted to be responders and confront the issues on there own. We knew very early in the development of this group that careful screening was an absolute must. Each applicant is now screened the same as our regular officers. They meet with officers of the Citizens On Patrol Group and a police liaison officer for an oral board. Then they are required to go through a thorough background check and then placed on a 90 day probation where they receive formal and informal training on policies and procedures as adopted in our by laws and approved by the Chief of Police.
Since initially the group would have to use there own vehicles, the question of communication was an issue that was easily rectified by AT&T Wireless. When we explained to them what we were going to do they set the group up on their Community Phone Patrol Program and donated phones and air time to the group. This made it very easy for the members on patrol to keep police dispatchers informed on possible criminal activity in progress.
To date the group has been credited with the recovery of a stolen vehicle, saving a life of a child that fell through the ice in a pond at one of our local parks, assisting officers in locating suspicious persons or vehicles, DUI drivers, vacation watch requests, extra patrol requests, traffic control assistance, air ambulance traffic control, funeral escorts and more. They have proven to be a valuable asset to the community and are always ready and willing to assist the police in any situation.
Growth and Development ...
Currently the Mountain Home Citizens On Patrol Program has 13 regular members and several honorary members. They have five retired police vehicles and a Golf Cart with Citizens On Patrol markings.
Recruitment is an ongoing process within the organization. The needs include members that can patrol, answer phones at the police department, and take initial reports on things such as lost or missing property, found property and other administrative duties such as entering information in the police data base or follow-up on calls for detectives on cold cases.
The Citizens On Patrol report to the Community Affairs Officer with the Mountain Home Police Department who acts as the liaison for the group. The Community Affairs Officer is responsible for the leadership of the group and for assisting them with recruitment, background checks, training, acquisition of equipment and vehicles and acts as an advisor to the group.
They meet twice a month, the first meeting each month is for administration issues and planning, the second meeting of the month is a training meeting. Each member is required to volunteer for at least eight patrol hours a month plus attend both meetings. The group is currently broken down into four patrol teams and is assigned to a vehicle. The members usually patrol on Friday and Saturday evenings and during the day on Sunday. They can patrol during other days and evenings of the week when possible.