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City forming Volunteers in Public Service unit

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SHARP volunteer Lee Maldonado directs traffic on Walnut Avenue during an emergency to free up sworn police officers.


POSTED July 29, 2009 1:16 a.m.

Additional looming budget cuts driven by the wobbling economy and the state swiping a chunk of Manteca’s local tax receipts is prompting a revision to the VIPS program before it is even rolled out.

Police Chief Dave Bricker had been planning to launch Volunteers in Police Servcie (VIPS) in Manteca by taking a page from nearby police departments such as Ripon and Turlock to tap volunteers from 21 to 50 to help augment police operations. It would have meant anyone who can pass a background check 16 years and older could help volunteer with Manteca Police. The Police Explorers program is open to those 16 to 21 while the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) are available for volunteers 50 and older.

Municipal management has been rethinking the effort given hits the parks department and other city services are taking with cutbacks imposed by leaving positions vacant and encouraging early retirement to cope with the deficit.

The program will be known by the VIPS acronym but it will stand for Volunteers in Public Service.

Bricker said the city will have a menu of ways someone interested in joining VIPS can help their community.

As for the police department, Bricker is working on a game plan to harness more volunteers 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.

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, graffiti removal, 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.

For more information about volunteering opportunities call 239-8441.

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