The national spotlight was aimed once again on Alexandria as the federal government unveiled a new program – Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS).
U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft made the announcement at the Nannie J. Lee Center on Thursday, May 30. “The efforts of these volunteers enable officers to stay on the front lines where they are needed most,” Ashcroft said. “Through programs such as Volunteers in Police Service, volunteers can assist police in performing routine duties which are necessary to the efficient operation of their department. Though the work may not be glamorous, it is essential.”
The goal of VIPS is to provide support for resource-constrained law-enforcement agencies by tapping civilian volunteers to supplement their community’s law-enforcement professionals in order to free up officers for front-line duty.
"Volunteers are an integral part of our department," said Police Chief Charles Samarra. "They help us achieve our goals as we work together to serve the community. We appreciate their hard work and dedication."
ALEXANDRIA WAS chosen as the site for the unveiling because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., and because of the city's active volunteer program. Alexandria was thrust into the national spotlight after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when it was announced the city would the venue for the upcoming trials of alleged terrorists Zacarias Moussaoui and John Walker-Lind.
The city of just under 130,000 residents boasts a police volunteer cadre of more than 65 individuals.
Emery Antonucci is the leader of those civilian volunteers. He first began working with the police department in 1988 and began the current volunteer program the following year. Antonucci is 78 and was previously employed in sales with Prudential Insurance. He got involved in the police department’s volunteer effort through AARP.
“We have truly been accepted at all levels of the department,” Antonucci said. “We have volunteers in every division except Internal Affairs and Vice and Narcotics. Mostly volunteers do clerical work but there are some who ride in patrol cars with officers and translate for them.”
The volunteers range in age from 16 to over 80. “We have retired individuals and high-school students who are here to perform community service,” Antonucci said. “All of them perform very important jobs.”
Joining Ashcroft and Samarra at Thursday’s event was John Bridgeland, Director of the USA Freedom Corps, the White House Coordinating Council that oversees the citizen corps and its programs. “President Bush created his USA Freedom Corps initiative to help Americans respond to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, with acts of kindness and compassion. Programs like VIPS create new opportunities for citizens to get involved,” Bridgeland said.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering to work with the Alexandria Police Department should call 703-706-3988.