An idea was recently submitted to the Modesto Police Department to enable greater citizen support to fight crime using very little taxpayer money. We can put more eyes on the street before there is money to hire more officers.
A citizens patrol would be established. The police department would screen, appoint and give brief training to volunteers on how to drive around the community looking for crimes in progress. Volunteers would not be permitted to intervene or have arrest power. Instead, the volunteers would use a designated direct hot line to police dispatch so that the nearest available officers could respond promptly. This would bypass 911, which sometimes gets bogged down with large volumes of calls.
At the discretion of the police chief, any volunteer with an agenda, a vendetta, who makes a false report or who violates any of the rules and policies of the program could be banned from further participation. The hot line phone number would be changed periodically as needed.
With the recent rash of daytime home burglaries, the best way to catch thieves is to have more eyes looking for them. The additional eyes would increase deterrence. A thief will go to another community to steal if he thinks he will get caught in ours. With citizen volunteers, the thief would have no way of knowing who is a volunteer because volunteers would drive their own cars at their own expense when they want to. Volunteers would not have schedules, so criminals could not predict when a crime can be committed with little risk of getting caught.
Given the spike in local crime, is it time to try something new? Neighborhood Watch isn't working well enough.
If a citizen is fed up with crime and vandalism, willing to spend his own money to drive around to help defend the community, should he be empowered to make a difference?
Fellow citizens, what do you think?
Editor's note: Frohman served on the Modesto City Council from 1999 to 2003.