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Additional volunteers sought for Citizens on Patrol

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The Lincoln Police Department’s Citizen on Patrol Program is looking for more volunteers to be the department’s “eyes and ears” on the street. On July 14, the program celebrated its ninth year of providing volunteer bike and vehicle patrol, as well as staffing for the department’s front counter, according to volunteer coordinator Rich Ragan. On Wednesday, nine new volunteers were added to the team during a “swearing-in and pinning ceremony” at City Hall, according to Ragan. That brings the total number of volunteers to 36. “This means an additional presence on our city streets and help in the police department’s front office,” Ragan said. “We are actively pursuing more people.” Ragan said he’d like to see at least “45 to 50” resident volunteers, who are asked to give at least four hours of their time a week. “We do low-profile, non-enforcement activity. We do tasks that don’t need to be done by a police officer,” Ragan said. “We don’t do enforcement. We are the eyes and ears of the department and our safety is critical.” Volunteers can serve in there areas: bike patrol, vehicle patrol and staffing the police department’s front counter. By bike, volunteers travel Lincoln’s 11 miles of bike and nature trails, 15 parks and also Lincoln’s schools to both interact with the public and report “suspicious activity.” If suspicious activity or an emergency is spotted, Ragan said the volunteers don’t get involved but either radio police dispatch or call dispatch by phone, depending on the situation. Vehicle patrol also provides a variety of services, according to Ragan, including transporting official documents to the District Attorney’s office and picking up mail from City Hall and delivering it to the police and fire stations. The volunteers also provide traffic control and patrol perimeters during incidents such as vehicle collisions and fires, and events such as parades, Ragan said. Vacation checks are done by Citizens on Patrol volunteers. They check windows and doors and move newspapers out of driveways for residents who request the checks, Ragan said. “If there is an unlocked window or door, we call an officer,” Ragan said. “We avoid unsafe conditions.” Having regular volunteers to staff the department’s front counter would mean residents can walk in and receive help with filing police reports and getting information, said Lincoln Police Chief Paul Shelgren. Starting next week, Shelgren said, the front office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. “They can take property crime reports where there are no suspects and help people with online reports,” Shelgren said. “It gives citizens better access. They can see a person, talk one-on-one and have their needs addressed.” Parking enforcement will start happening again once “we get more volunteers trained,” Shelgren said. “They will help with limited time parking enforcement,” Shelgren said. “They can write tickets.” Having the Citizens on Patrol program “helps keep our limited resources on the street, doing priority calls,” according to Shelgren. What Ragan likes about volunteering is “giving back to the community, making a professional contribution and working with a lot of great people.” “We are the eyes and ears, increasing the police department’s presence. On the streets of Lincoln or in the cars, we are seen as police enforcement,” Ragan said. “Our presence is an additional enforcement activity.” The Lincoln News Messenger profiles a nonprofit organization every week. To see an organization featured, please call 774-7967 or e-mail stephanied@ goldcountrymedia.com.