WINTER HAVEN — The Polk County sheriff is hoping to quickly round up a whole bunch of people, but for once it has nothing to do with putting anyone in jail.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is asking interested citizens to step up to the plate and help take a bite out of crime, by taking part in his new Volunteer Sheriff’s Service Officer Program.
Several information sessions are coming up next month.
This is a new volunteer program that aims to bring together citizen volunteers to provide non-emergency law enforcement services that don’t need to be handled by a deputy.
Instead, the sheriff would create his own “eyes and ears” force — a uniformed, unarmed group of civilian volunteers who want an opportunity to assist the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in keeping Polk County a safe place to live.
This volunteer program is based on a current one, the Sheriff’s Service Officer Program, which brings together civilians to conduct a variety of non-emergency law enforcement services. In some ways, Judd said, this latest program is an expansion of what is currently in place.
“This program builds on our highly successful Citizens’ Assisted Patrol program, Judd said. “We are broadening the concept of citizen involvement from the neighborhood level to countywide.”
There are plenty of different tasks for the volunteers to perform, he added.
“These citizen volunteers will assist our deputies in many capacities,” Judd said.
In fact, because of what Judd said would be high level of responsibility for the new volunteers, an extensive 120 hour training program is required.
Anyone interested in volunteering can attend an upcoming information session at the Sheriff’s Operations Center, 1891 Jim Keene Boulevard in Winter Haven.
The sessions are Monday, Oct. 29 at 10 a.m.; Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m.; and Thursday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. in the “PROCAP” room.
Signs at the building’s entrance will direct the volunteers to the information session.
The volunteers who sign up will be taking part in a program that aims to increase law enforcement visibility, crime prevention, and deterrence through highly visible patrols in marked vehicles — and uniformed volunteers.
The volunteers will supplement the work being done by sworn deputies, by handling specific calls for service, and duties that don’t require law enforcement authority.
Those duties will include:
* House checks for homes that are vacant, are being foreclosed on, or where the owners are on vacation;
* After-hours business and commercial checks and patrol;
* Neighborhood patrols;
* Traffic accidents that don’t involve injuries;
* Initiatives aimed at promoting school zone safety;
* Traffic monitoring and radar surveys;
* Traffic and pedestrian controls around traffic accidents or special events;
* Assistance for stranded motorists;
* Follow-up reports in neighborhoods targeted for property crimes;
* and assistance on criminal investigations.
“We are looking forward to building a highly capable group of men and women who will take an active role helping us keep Polk County safe,” Judd said.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office already has more than 3,200 volunteers who help out in numerous sheriff’s Office functions and the CAP program, noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
Volunteers now work in departments like Animal Control, Records, Human Resources, Special Operations, the Dive Team and Mounted Patrol, the county jails, Seniors vs. Crime — a project between the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Attorney General’s Office — and a volunteer chaplain program.
CAP began in 2003 and “Their motto is ‘Observe and report,’ ” Eleazer noted. “There are approximately 3,000 CAP volunteers within 53 communities and on two recreational trails. In 2011, they donated more than 100,486 labor hours.”
For the sheriff’s office — and for county taxpayers — that’s a yearly savings on labor costs of $1,746,446, she noted.
For patrol duties, volunteers use 40 golf carts and 23 patrol cars, and also patrol in neighhborhoods on foot and by bicycle.
For more information about this volunteer program, call Deputy Sheriff J. Allen Barber at 863-298-6687 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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