Fairfield County residents may see citizens patrolling their streets as 94 community members have contacted Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen’s office to volunteer, pending the approval of the Fairfield County Commissioners.
Among those currently interested in volunteering are retired law enforcement personnel, a local pastor, and a professor at Ohio University-Lancaster.
Phalen is excited about the prospects of introducing the community to the Citizens on Patrol (COP) program. He stated that significant budget reductions in 2005 resulted in the loss of 26 positions in his department and, although COP is not designed to replace sheriff department staff, the program could become an important extension of the Sheriff’s Office.
"This program is just one more way of partnering with our community to provide safety and security to all our residents," said Phalen. "Just like blockwatches provide citizens the security of neighbors looking out for neighbors, this program will take that concept one step further by becoming a mobile blockwatch with citizens patrolling their neighborhoods and communities."
Phalen stated that in the Pickerington area, COP volunteers could be used to patrol local festivals and watch the homes of vacationing residents.
Staffed by volunteers and headed by a deputy, COP program members would complete an extensive 32 hour training course, a thorough background check and complete a CPR class. The volunteers would not be armed and would not participate in any confrontations. Volunteers would patrol their own neighborhoods and would simply report what they observe to their deputy counterpart.
The current proposed plan would have COP’s participants using old police cruisers that are no longer serviceable. These cruisers would clearly identify its occupants as COP program volunteers and would not be outfitted with the emergency lights. Program participants would also wear a polo shirt identifying them as volunteers.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Fairfield County COP program should contact Pam Renko at (740) 687-6751.