Citizen patrol holds promise

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It may not be an original idea, but we believe Denton’s citizen patrol program will provide a fresh approach to help strengthen the relationship between the police department and the public.

Plus, using citizen volunteers to supplement the work force available to handle certain duties could ultimately save police man hours and taxpayer dollars.

The Denton Police Department and its Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association have been working together for about six months to get the Denton Citizen Police Volunteer Program’s citizen patrol in full force.

Gary Steele, president of the alumni association, told us citizen patrol programs are widely used in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“It’s long overdue,” he said of the idea to organize a program for Denton.

We agree, and we encourage the department and the community to continue working to develop the program and get it going.

And when we say “community,” we are talking about more than the men and women who will volunteer to fill the program’s ranks. The citizen patrol concept should also offer plenty of opportunities for area businesses to provide support.

In March, Bill Utter Ford provided the program with a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria. The car made its debut at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in April after it was “striped” by Cooper’s Copies, said Officer Shane Kizer, who is helping to oversee the program.

Kizer said officials hope to have the car on the street within the next month, and so far, the overall volunteer program has 22 people signed up — all alumni of the 13-week Citizen Police Academy hosted by Denton police.

We’ve got a feeling that if all goes well, that will just be the beginning.

“It’s going to be great,” Steele said. “Eventually I would like to have a volunteer patrol vehicle for each of the five districts here in the city.”

We hope Steele’s enthusiasm is catching. Considering Denton’s widespread area and its growth in recent years, there’s plenty of room for several patrols.

A citizen patrolling the streets will be easily identifiable, Kizer said. All volunteers will wear blue polo shirts with proper “volunteer” identification on them.

“A volunteer will not be with a weapon of any kind and cannot act as an officer,” Kizer said. “They are able to just be another set of eyes and ears on our streets.”

Volunteers must meet certain criteria, and they will be screened. Volunteers must be 18 or older; live, work or be a student in the Denton city limits; have a valid driver’s license with a good driving record; and pass a background check. There will also be hours of training required, Kizer told us.

The volunteers should prove especially useful in certain situations.

“We will definitely have citizens out driving the parking lot at the mall during the Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping season,” Kizer said.

Anyone interested in signing up to be a volunteer can contact Kizer at 940-349-7241 or shane.kizer@cityofdenton.com.

Having additional observers on the streets who are taught what to watch for could be a valuable asset for police and the public, and a well-marked citizen patrol vehicle might even help deter some criminals.

We’ve got a feeling that Denton police will be extremely selective when it comes to choosing volunteers, and that’s the way it should be.

The citizen patrol is serious business and will require careful development, but we believe it could provide plenty of benefits.

 


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