A recently launched volunteer patrol team is supporting the efforts of the Los Angeles Police Department’s crime-fighting efforts in the northeast San Fernando Valley.
The Volunteer Community Patrol team will be on hand to help where needed in the geographic area covered by the LAPD’s Mission Division, which includes the neighborhoods of Arleta, Panorama City, Sylmar, North Hills and Mission Hills.
The patrol team’s primary focus will be on property crimes, including residential and motor vehicle burglaries. They also may be called to set up perimeters at the burglary sites, keep an eye out for mail and package thieves, conduct traffic control around accidents, and help search for missing children.
Doug Behr, a Sylmar resident who has lived in the area for nearly two decades, is one of the volunteer team’s 15 members.
He said he wanted to “give back to my community” by using his military and law enforcement background to help be the “eyes and ears” for the police department.
“As a former policeman, I can make a positive contribution to the brave men and women in blue,” he said.
Another volunteer, Guy Husany said patrolling was something he wanted to do because he wanted to lend a helping hand.
“I’m part of the community,” he said. “I’m a retired medic, I saw the opportunity (to help out).”
The team will be working four to six shifts a week, and “are assigned very specific missions in areas where crime is occurring,” said Mission Area Captain Natalie Cortez.
They serve as “high visibility patrols,” and as “deterrence for those who are committing nefarious activities,” she said.
The team, which began patrolling in November, has already made its mark, during a recent call about a man with a gun, according to Cortez. Volunteer patrol was able to reach the location before police officers, and once the officers arrived, the volunteers provided the suspect’s location and pointed them to a knife thrown into the bushes, Cortez said.
The program also gives residents a way “to take back our communities,” said L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who represents the area.
“This is a perfect opportunity for people in the community to come and partner with the department and figure out what they can do to give back and be the eyes and ears of their own neighborhood,” she said.
The volunteers wear white uniforms and conduct their patrol in one of two BMW i3 electric vehicles assigned to the team. Those vehicles had been sitting unused in the LAPD’s garage, according to the councilwoman’s office.
The program is the latest to be rolled out at LAPD stations, following an initial program at the Devonshire Division, in the northwest Valley, that started in 2015. Since then, teams have been launched in all seven LAPD division in the Valley, according to Valley Bureau Chief Kris Pitcher.
The expansion of the volunteer program comes as more officers are getting assigned to patrol duties. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said last year that he would bolster the department’s patrol division by 200 officers in 2019, moving resources from specialized units, such as gang and narcotics and robbery homicide divisions.
The Mission Division was “fortunate to get an additional seven or eight bodies out here, and we’ve put them right into patrol cars and increased our presence in the community,” Cortez told the Los Angeles Daily News Thursday.
The additional volunteer and LAPD officer patrols have also come as 911 call volume has increased. Mission Division Captain Peter Casey said they are getting an average of 10,000 additional calls per month, compared to the previous year, and the number of calls is “going to continue to grow as the Valley grows.”
Those interested in volunteering for the Mission Division’s patrol program can apply in person at the station, at 11121 Sepulveda Blvd.