Crime Watch: Police departments create 'Citizens on Patrol' programs

Here in booming Central Texas, we're seeing discrepancies in population growth and officer staffing.

Whether it be a lack of funding or the lag time of putting cadets through training, police departments say they need more officers.

In this week’s Crime Watch we visit two agencies that are putting citizens on patrol.

Dennis Barbeau grabs his things and heads to his patrol car. He puts in 40 to 50 hours a week at the Georgetown Police Department. But unlike a licensed police officer, Barbeau's weapons are a notebook and a radio.

The retiree, who used to work in the wrist watch industry, is one of 15 participants in the newly-created citizens on patrol program. Since it started last march, the volunteers have donated a total of 43-hundred hours. Their main purpose is to observe and report.

"As we go through the neighborhood we're looking for open garage doors, anything askew that we see that might not look normal,” said Barbeau.

They do mundane tasks like waiting on tow trucks to free up officers for more urgent matters.

Lt. James Seals oversees the program.

"Larger things like a tanker over turning, those events can turn into from a 25-30 person call to a 500 person call and you get beyond the span of control in your department with large events and that's where the volunteers come into play,” said Seals.

The Leander Police Department plans to launch its citizens on patrol program April 1st.

"Every company, every department would like more people, but it's a matter of what you can afford and sometimes we may not have all the staff we would like. These volunteers come in and they fill that void where we may not have the staffing to get that done,” said Officer Elizabeth Conrad.

Christy Turner is one of four who will participate. By day, she is a compliance officer for J.P. Morgan Chase.

"I just want to help them and help the community,” said Turner.

Volunteers will be in uniform and will ride in this specially outfitted patrol car in pairs. To maintain thier volunteer status, they must put in 16 hours a month.

"Eventually, we'd like to have it where these people are on all the time helping our officers, but for now we're going to start with  a small group, make sure it gets running smoothly and once this small group gets going we'll opening it up some more and try and get more people on,” said Conrad.

Citizens on patrol are just icing on the cake.

In all, Leander PD has 25 volunteers.

Georgetown has a whopping 160 who do everything from operating the reception area to serving as park rangers.

"We have retired generals and majors in the military and retired police chiefs and they come in a they give their time. It's inspiring for me to see them give of themselves and help the community and the department,” said Seals.

For Barbeau, that feeling of appreciation goes both ways.

"I knew they were out there. I knew they were doing a job. But to see the training they have to go through. The mental toughness they have to have is unbelievable,” said Barbeau. "I'm in awe of them. That's the bottom line."


 

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