Citizens on Patrol volunteers in Red Deer logged almost 800 hours during 2011 in their efforts to deter criminals by providing extra eyes and ears for police.
A mobile group similar in purpose to Neighbourhood Watch, Citizens on Patrol provides screened and trained volunteers who work in pairs or trios, driving around the city and keeping an eye out for trouble, reporting anything amiss to the Red Deer City RCMP.
The Red Deer group is now working on a new training program that would enable its volunteers to assist with traffic control as needed, for example to route traffic around a collision scene, association president Troy Ropchan said on Monday.
Ropchan is not allowed to provide details on any of the crimes he and his team have reported, including the number of calls made about drivers that appear impaired.
However, he believes the patrols have had a positive affect in the two years since the group was revived in Red Deer.
Members who have been taking part in the patrols are not seeing as much suspicious activity in the city centre has they had in 2009, when the patrols were first started, he said.
Red Deer’s Citizens on Patrol Association currently has 13 active members and four more are going through the security and training process.
The group has had up to 25 active members at one time with new members always welcome.
Members work directly with the RCMP through the community policing section, logging in when they begin a patrol and then setting out in groups of two or three to drive around and look for trouble.
Each pair or trio set up its own route. Some prefer to stay in the downtown areas while others cover the entire city, making a special point of checking into commercial areas and city parks, which are closed but not gated at 11 p.m.
Their vehicles are not marked and the police officers who are patrolling the same streets don’t usually know who they are, said Ropchan.
It is not unusual for a Citizens on Patrol unit to be pulled over by police. Ropchan said his vehicle was pulled over once after taking a look around the McKenzie Trails area.
He and his partner were just leaving as the police officer arrived. The two patrollers showed the police officer their badges and were then allowed to carry on.
Expenses are picked up by the volunteers themselves, with some support from donors and fundraising, including gas credits from Fas Gas, cellphones from Telus, night vision binoculars supplied by Quinn’s Oilfield Supply and GPS units from Rifco.
Anyone interested in joining up can e-mail the Red Deer group at email@example.com or contact the Citizens on Patrol liaison officer at 403-406-2483.