Manteca Police’s blue brigade of volunteers - the men and women of the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police - are widely credited with helping free up police manpower to focus on more pressing crime needs.
The 80-member strong SHARP unit performs a wide array of tasks: delivering police papers to courts in Manteca and Stockton; conducting neighborhood, school and shopping center safety patrols; graffiti removal; traffic control as needed at accidents and crime scenes including responding in early morning hours; filing; assistance with evidence storage; and even transporting injured animals to a sanctuary in Ceres. They also volunteer to assist with a wide array of community events including crowd control for parades and such.
The program was launched back in 1991 by then Police Chief Willie Weatherford who had seen a similar program work in San Bernardino.
Last month, the SHARP unit conferred lifetime membership to both Weatherford and his wife Sherilyn for not only founding the volunteer organization but for continuing to support it as well.
“It’s been able to work well because volunteers are given tasks to do that matter,” Weatherford, who has served as mayor for the past 10 years, said.
By identifying needs that were essential but could be done by non-paid personnel, it has effectively freed up police officers to allow them more time on the streets while at the same time allowing volunteers to make a meaningful contribution to the community.
Weatherford lauded the volunteers noting that it was his experience as police chief that they could be given duties to handle and you could rely on them to finish them and do so in a professional and efficient manner.
Weatherford is convinced without the SHARPS volunteers tackling more pedestrian tasks that Manteca Police would have a difficult time providing their current level of service.
Maldonado noted that through August SHARP volunteers have logged over 109,000 hours this year. Volunteers are asked to commit to four hours a week. Many end up doing as many as 100 hours a month.
Maldonado became a SHARP volunteer four years ago along with her husband Lee who is a retried Oakland Police officer. He serves under Maldonado as a lieutenant.
The unit is always looking for additional volunteers. You must be 40 years or older and pass a background check. Those accepted will have a uniform provided to them by the city.
For more information call 483-8116.