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Citizens On Patrol volunteers celebrate five years

By: Brandon Darnell The News Messenger
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Volunteers from Lincoln’s Citizens On Patrol program were recognized for their service by city officials and police Tuesday in City Hall. The event marked the program’s fifth anniversary, and all agree that it has proven successful. “We have one of, if not the best program around,” said Paul Tyler, community service officer for the Lincoln Police Department. “The volunteers that we have right now have set a pretty high standard.” Police Chief Brian Vizzusi agreed, saying, “This is one of the best programs in the state. We are a model for others.” The program’s primary goal is child safety, said Les Thomas, a director of operations for the program. To that end, volunteers educate students at schools, patrol parks and use bicycles to patrol the city’s trails. The three main ways Citizens On Patrol helps the community is by providing an extra set of eyes and ears for police, supporting police operations and administration – everything from directing traffic to fingerprinting – and serving as goodwill ambassadors to the community, Thomas said. Tuesday’s event was an opportunity for police and community leaders to thank the volunteers. Last year, they clocked approximately 17,000 hours, which would cost the police department $327,000 if it were paid for, Vizzusi said. Since the program’s inception, $1.2 million worth of time has been volunteered. “We want to take the opportunity just to thank them,” Tyler said. After speeches from police and city officials, each volunteer received a certificate of appreciation. There are currently 38 volunteers, and they come from a variety of backgrounds. Many are retired, and their careers included law enforcement, accounting and security. In addition to helping the police, Citizens On Patrol is also dedicated to helping people in the community. One service the volunteers offer is to check on homes when the owners are on vacation. Last year, more than 700 calls for checks were received. Soon, volunteers also will offer home inspections. Thomas said specially trained volunteers will help residents turn their homes into difficult targets for burglars. “We’ll walk through their entire property with the eyes of a burglar,” he said. “Most burglars are looking for crimes of opportunity,” Tyler said, pointing out that the program is geared toward making crimes of opportunity unappealing. Not all aspects of the home inspections will be for burglar-proofing, however, as they will also emphasize child safety, including tips on gun and pool safety. Bill Barnes, who has been with Citizens On Patrol for 3 ½ years, said he likes supporting the community and has had lots of people say they’re happy to see the volunteers out patrolling. Roy Osborne, who has been with the program for 4 ½ years, needed something to do after retirement and has logged almost 3,000 hours. “It’s a good feeling when you can walk away and know you did something today, you helped someone today,” Osborne said. The Lincoln Police Department will have another Citizens On Patrol academy in the next two or three months. For more information, call Paul Tyler at 295-7679.