Meet the Danville Police Department VIPS Volunteers In Police Service This is the second of a series introducing the Danville Police Department VIPS (Volunteer In Police Service.) A L I V 22 E E A S T B A Y a p r i l 2 0 1 6 HAR R Y HUB INGE R Last month we accompanied Darren, our hypothetical alter-ego, as he attended the Danville Police Citizens Academy. You may recall that upon graduation Darren applied to the Department to become a VIPS. At the very end of the first chapter, Darren was given a badge, a uniform, and an ID which meant he passed all the required interviews and background checks. I might add he was very pleased and anxious to get going, but there were a few hills left to climb. Darren’s first direct discussion with the powers that be was the introduction to the Scarecrow Rule. Now he may be in uniform, may sport a shield, may drive a black and white police vehicle, but he is NOT, I repeat NOT a police officer. He may fool a few people and look professional, but it is important to realize his minimal training does not qualify him as an officer. What then is his overriding duty? That’s where the Scarecrow Rule comes in. Now we all know that scarecrows are placed in corn fields. The crows see the image and are convinced that a live person is protecting the field. “Hey, let’s move on to the next field. This one is covered” is the crow’s response. The parallel applies. A black and white is seen cruising around a neighborhood, and “Let’s move on” is the bad guy’s response. This boils down to a simple truth. Be seen by as many as possible, and be a good witness to what you see. Now a VIPS is not allowed to travel alone. There must be a twosome for safety reasons. Obviously, they both are required to have radios which connect them to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s dispatch center. When they go on duty, and as they travel about, it is important that they keep the dispatch center informed. This little hill was Darren’s next to conquer. The radios themselves were not tough to learn, but it was surprising how tongue tied a normal person can become when they are faced with telling someone what they are witnessing. It takes a lot of work to overcome one’s stammering and concisely give the position and activity you are observing. VIPS patrols cover a number of other things as well. A garage with an open door and no cars is an invitation to disaster. Those four expensive off-road bikes next to several sets of golf clubs can earn a thief a thousand dollars in five minutes. When our VIPS come upon this situation a mail reminder is sent to the resident with a request that they be a bit more cautious in the future. Newspapers collecting on the driveway and a UPS box on the front porch announce to a thief that the resident is on vacation. Great time to make a midnight call! A large percentage of police calls are for crimes of opportunity, and Darren is out on patrol looking for these oversights.The program is called “If I Were A Thief” and reminds the residents to be more careful. It didn’t take Darren long to become a friend with the sworn officers. They are fully occupied with the daily duties of investigation reports, traffic safety, thefts and robberies, and the mountain of paper work that goes with each activity. Darren was surprised to learn that last year the Danville Police Department handled just under 26,000 calls. Not that there were that many crimes, but there were that many needs for police contact. Therefore, from time to time, he is called upon to help with traffic, vehicle maintenance, police station tours, fingerprinting, and possibly some office work.
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