What is a VPD VIP?

Jerry Mendelson and Paul Magie will do vacation checks on your home while you’re away.

by Jerry Mendelsohn

Ventura Police Department Volunteer

What is a VIP? Well, other than a shortcut to a definition of Very Important Person, the Ventura Police Department uses the abbreviation to identify a successful program it implemented over a decade ago–Volunteers In Policing.

Who are these people, and what do they do? Having been one for almost 7 years, allow me to simply say that each person is someone who wants to “pay it forward” by giving back to the community, has some time to volunteer, and believes in the merits of law and order.

Both men and women participate. Though most are retired, their backgrounds show talents as teachers , school administrators, corporate positions, business owners, law enforcement, and so on. Stringent background checks precede an invitation to a police “aca demy, ” and, upon graduation, it is suggested that a volunteer attempt to give a minimum of 16 hours or more of service per month .

You have probably seen VIPs around town in marked white vehicles, either vans or SUVs. They are radio-e quipped so VIPs can be in touch with the police station’s “comcenter”- -dispatch–and vice versa, for assignments and anything else with which VIPs can help. VIPs typically patrol in pairs.

The primary purpose of the VIP is to be a “visible presence” in the community and to aid the regular , sworn officers as needed, primarily to relieve them of some of the duties that might occupy their time when they could be better utilized as crime fighters involved with more serious issues that , unfortunately, impact every community .

VIPs commonly do traffic control when needed. They are permitted to issue some citations for non-moving violations, such as parking illegally, etc . Indeed , Ventura had a fairly frequent problem of people parking in designated handicapped spots but with no displayed placard.

Partially through a concerted, continual effort by the VIPs, handicapped parking violations have diminished dramatically .

VIPs often will take written reports of non-injury accidents, interacting with the victims, calling for back-up of an officer if needed, and then entering said reports into the police system, typically for insurance companies. Further, VIPs will assist officers with transportation of personal property of vagrants and others who the officers may need to take to a hospital or jail.

VIPs are called to residences to, again, take written reports on home and auto burglaries. While city resident s are invited to file online reports, many do not or are uncomfortable with doing so, so VIPs assist .

As a community service, VIPs will do vacation checks on your home while you’re away, walking

your property to verify doors and windows are secure, that there appears to be no break-in attempts, and

that your property seems OK until you return. Visible signs of an owner being away, such as door-hangers and newspapers, or trash cans left out, may be picked up and/or put away as is feasible.

The VIP may patrol school zones, with a keen eye out for suspicious loiterers or people perhaps sitting in cars who don’t belong there or are acting strangely.

Other tasks also fill up VIP shifts, but I’ve tried to identify some of the more frequent ones. Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you may contact the Ventura Police Department Civic Engagement Specialist at 339-4317.

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