Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

Temple Terrace seeks volunteers for a citizens patrol

TEMPLE TERRACE — The Temple Terrace Police Department seeks 12 volunteers to act as citizen patrol aides, cruising neighborhoods and commercial districts and reporting suspicious activity.

But, unlike the neighborhood watch captain in the explosive Trayvon Martin death, these police aides will not be packing heat.

"The most they'll be armed with is a pad and pencil,'' said police spokesman Michael Dunn.

City resident David Klasyk, a former Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy, says he's thinking of volunteering. Such a patrol would be a good idea, he said, especially after a series of car and apartment burglaries in the city last November. He hadn't signed up for the Temple Terrace program yet because he wasn't sure how soon it would be started.

Klasyk figures the volunteers would be "more or less ears and eyes — calling, assisting, even doing radar. It depends on the group you get and how far they want to train.''

So far, the city has four prospects, but no one has yet signed up, Dunn said. Once the volunteers have been selected, they will undergo 40 hours of training.

"It's going to take a while to get the whole thing going,'' Dunn said.

The volunteer patrol program is in some ways more structured than the more common neighborhood watch programs being scrutinized following the controversy surrounding George Zimmerman's fatal shooting of Martin in Sanford.

The national Neighborhood Watch Program has roots going back to the 1960s and the National Sheriffs' Association officially launched the program in 1972. Today, Tampa Bay has more than 1,000 Neighborhood Watch associations. Many are sanctioned by the national group, while others operate independently, as the Sheriffs' Association says was the case with Zimmerman's group. Some neighborhood watches offer training, although few do background checks.

That won't be the case with the citizen patrols in Temple Terrace. Here, volunteers will undergo criminal background checks, receive 40 hours of specialized training and wear uniforms that distinguish them from police officers. They will patrol in pairs and drive city-issued vehicles. Two police cars have been refurbished and marked "Citizen Patrol'' vehicles. They will have amber lights instead of blue and red.

The volunteers' duties would include assisting officers with traffic control, responding to non-emergency calls, reporting suspicious activities and providing basic first aid.

The Temple Terrace effort would be similar to a program that the county Sheriff's Office started in 2007, Dunn said. Since then, the county has trained citizens to respond to non-emergency and routine calls for service. Duties include patrolling neighborhoods, assisting with school crossings, conducting vacation checks and documenting graffiti, according to the county's website.

Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected], or (813) 226-3435.

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