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Police seek volunteers to ease pain of budget cuts

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POSTED June 22, 2009 1:30 a.m.

Manteca is going to call on VIPs to help argument police services.

Police Chief Dave Bricker is working on the final touches of a game plan to harness more volunteers – those between the ages of 21 and 50 – in a bid to help keep police service levels as high as possible in the face of a $1.4 million budget hit due to the city’s general fund deficit.

VIPS stands for Volunteers in Police Services.

Much of the budget loss covers 14 positions – patrol officers as well as support staff.

The department already relies on over 100 volunteers ranging from Police Explorers and Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) to Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) members. The three groups have long been credited with allowing the department to take pressure off patrol officers by doing low-priority tasks that are still essential to the operation of the department as well as allowing the city to sustain a fairly high service level.

Now that the budget crunch has changed the staffing landscape, additional volunteers are critical if the city wants to avoid major declines in service levels.

SHARP volunteers now, as an example, do a wide array of tasks from running papers to and from court, relieving officers to do traffic control work at crime and accident scenes, to filing and doing tasks such as washing cars. They also do vacation checks on homes and help man information booths at community events.

SHARPS – along with CERTS – provide traffic control for special events. They also have been harnessed on a moment’s notice to organize searches for missing children. The CERTs volunteers several years ago during a heat wave were doing welfare checks at mobile home parks and came across an elderly woman in the early stages of heat stroke. The city’s ability to harness volunteers for such a task was credited with saving the woman’s life.
They also augment police presence by providing patrols of neighborhoods, shopping centers and schools.

SHARP volunteers – who need additional manpower – must be at least 50 years of age, have a clean record, have reasonably good health, and be able to volunteer four hours a week.
Bricker said the VIPS will fill in the last gap of volunteer opportunities in terms of ages. The Police Explorers are upon to those between 16 and 21.
Ripon Police already has a VIPS unit that handles a wide variety of tasks.

For more information about volunteering opportunities call 239-8441.

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