ST. GEORGE – The police aren’t the only ones patrolling the streets these days. The Volunteers in Public Safety are also on the street and providing local law enforcement with a helping hand.
Known as VIPS, volunteers like John Hull have aided the police since the program was organized in 2003.
“It’s a golden opportunity for people to make a difference,” Hull said.
Known nationally as the Volunteers in Police Service program, a large part of the mission of VIPS is to encourage increased community involvement in matters of public safety, as well as to foster a spirit of cooperation and partnership between the police and the community.
Typically, VIPS members will attend to duties that do not require a certified officer, such as fingerprinting, reporting and documenting abandoned vehicles, and even issuing violations to illegally parked vehicles.
People parking vehicles in handicapped zones without proper authorization may soon find themselves visited by a passing VIPS patrol.
VIPS members also aid police during traffic accidents; situations in which they are able to manage crowd control and help direct traffic. They are also called in for civic functions and special events, like the St. George Marathon.
Hull said that public reception of the VIPS program has been positive, that people understand that VIPS members are trying to make the community a better place.
“We get a lot of thanks and smiles of appreciation,” Hull said.
As for the police department’s view of VIPS, St. George Detective Johnny Heppler previously told St. George News that, “The St. George Police Department’s VIPS program is an asset to the citizens of our great city and their good work contributes significantly to the tremendous quality of life we enjoy living in St. George.”
As members of VIPS perform their various duties on patrol and in the offices of the Police Department, it allows the police to tend to more important business.
In 2010, VIPS members served an estimated 7,760 hours. During that time they served 500 witness subpoenas, issued 440 handicapped parking violations, and issued 1,200 warnings. The total value of these services is calculated to be worth over $150,000.
Typical VIPS members are retired and come from all walks of life. Hull is a former fireman and bus driver. Other volunteer backgrounds include a NASA scientist, a member of the US State Department, a submarine captain, an airline pilot and many others.
For anyone interested in looking into the VIPS program, Hull said that they are encouraged to apply. One needs only to fill out and turn in an application, go through a background check, and pass an interview. Applications can be obtained at the St. George Police Station at 256 North 200 East in St. George, or online.
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