Longmont Police Seek More Volunteers for Citizen Patrol Program
Two volunteers were the first people on-scene for a crash at Third Avenue and Sunset Street in Longmont on Wednesday afternoon.
John Kirkpatrick, 56, and Nancy Groom, 75, quickly got to work blocking part of the intersection, directing traffic and calling for a medical assist for one of the passengers.
A few minutes later, Longmont police and fire arrived, and Kirkpatrick and Groom moved further down the street to block traffic from heading toward the accident while the cars waited for tow trucks.
While most people obeyed the cones and parked marked vehicle, a few tried to drive through on the opposite side of the road. Kirkpatrick and Groom jumped in to redirect them.
The two are members of the Citizen Volunteer Patrol, a group of volunteer officers in Longmont who assist the Department of Public Safety in a variety of ways, like directing traffic.
Kirkpatrick was one of the first to join the patrol when it started in 2005.
While it has had as many as 48 members at one time in the past, it is now down to 25, according to Keith Bell, a Longmont master police officer who also manages the volunteer program.
Bell is now advertising the program on social media and the police department’s website in an effort to get more members.
While their numbers have been steady, he said he’d “like to see it go up again.”
“I think people are not volunteering as much as they used to, for whatever reason,” Bell added. He hopes to raise interest in the program, which has members ranging from 25 to 80 years old. There are assignment options for nearly everyone, he said.
The variety of options is part of the draw for both Kirkpatrick and Groom. Kirkpatrick, who has a busy day job as a consultant, also appreciates the flexibility that volunteer programs often lack.
“I can go out for a two-hour patrol or an eight-hour patrol any time, any day,” he said.
Groom was a volunteer for other organizations for decades, and decided to join the volunteer patrol so that she could “participate in the community with a group of people that I admired: police officers.”
The program has evolved from its beginnings as solely “eyes and ears” for the police, patrolling streets by foot, Bell said. Now volunteers can do shifts in patrol vehicles, go on bike patrols and assist with special events.
There are also volunteers who help with the command center and run security for Longmont’s SWAT team when it deploys. Others help shuttle police vehicles to and from the service center.
Volunteers are not provided weapons, though they do carry pepper spray, and they aren’t taught to chase down suspects themselves. But they help free up officers’ time by getting some of the more mundane tasks out of the way, Bell said.
For example, volunteers can collect found property and log it for officers, or collect surveillance footage from businesses in town.
“That saves about half an hour of an officer’s time, so that they can be actually on the street patrolling,” Bell said.
Simply driving around an area can also have an effect on things like driving speed or bad behavior.
“It’s amazing, what the presence of a marked car will do to an area,” Kirkpatrick said. He tries to go around the crime-free housing areas, as well as communities that officers may not have time to patrol often.
In return, Bell said, volunteers get to give back to the community and be part of a “tight-knit” group, or the “CVP family,” as Groom called it.
Volunteers meet every second Tuesday of the month, which counts toward the required 10 volunteer hours each month. Applications can be found on the Public Safety Department’s website .
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org