Support Team Provides Extra Eyes and Ears

Support Team Provides Extra Eyes and Ears

Citizens help police behind the scenes.

When a few members of the community came forward 28 years ago to offer their eyes and ears to the Herndon Police Department, no one knew how valuable they would become to the town.

Today, the Herndon Police Citizen Support Team has 15 members who last year devoted 5,000 hours of their time to help make the community a safer place.

"Herndon is a great community, with a fantastic police department, and a lot of people don't realize that," said Guy Masters, president of the Herndon Citizen Support Team. "But, they can't be everywhere, so the more eyes and ears you have out there, the safer the community will be."

"When the group started, I was a police corporal," said Herndon Police Captain Darryl Smith. "There was a group in the area comprised of individuals who volunteered to help the police in the county ... who operate on the CB radios and reported suspicious activity for the police."

Smith explained that when the group first presented the department with their desire to form a similar group solely for Herndon, there wasn't much opposition by the police.

"We had to make sure they understood they were citizens, there were no weapons carried while on patrol," said Smith, adding he emphasized to the police chief at the time the volunteers didn't want to be officers. "I assured him these people just had assisting the police on their agenda, they didn't want to be police officers."

"We're non-confrontational," said Masters, "we're strictly out there to observe."

OVER THE YEARS the team evolved to assist the police in many areas, ranging from traffic control to child seat safety checks.

Not only do support team members patrol the streets in their individual cars, but they also wear old Herndon police officer uniforms with HPCST across the back while on bike patrol.

"You're much closer to the community on the bike than if you were in your car," said Ken Luchetti, support team member of three years. "I took right away to doing duty on the bikes ... and we do it year round, in the winter too if it's not too below freezing."

Steve Kozup, Herndon resident of 20 years, developed a patrol beat that begins after his work day ends.

"I got involved with the support team because of the community service aspect and the fact that I am able to help the Herndon Police Department," said Kozup. "A lot of folks in the Herndon Police Department are very talented and hard working."

"Steve has a keen eye for DUIs [driving under the influence]," said Masters. "Because he's out there when the bars are closing and knows the signs to look for ... he'll follow someone for a while to make sure they are showing visible signs, and then call the police to intervene."

As a 501-3C, or non-profit organization, Masters explained the team is strictly volunteer, so people donate their time based on availability, ranging from 150- to 1,000-hours a year per person.

In addition to volunteering their time, Masters explained they also use their own vehicles, gas and bicycles to patrol because any funding they receive has either been raised at their annual classic car show or donated by members of the community.

"It takes about $4,500 to outfit one member," said Masters, adding that money is mainly for the police radios, which the police department has currently loaned the team.

Masters explained the support team has a maximum membership of 20, although currently there are 15 members with two more going through the training.

"If you're going to participate as a volunteer with the Herndon Police Department," said Masters, "you have to understand how the police department works."

THE TRAINING members receive has to do with crowd control, traffic control, how to patrol the streets and signs to look for when out on patrol and also includes a video, written test and a field test where a sergeant from the department evaluates their work.

"There is an application process, we check their criminal history," said Smith. "We make sure they know they represent the town and the police department, and they really do obey traffic laws and haven't had problems with violating criminal laws in the past."

As a member of the bike patrol, support team members have additional training that covers managing the bike through crowds along with riding in all types of weather.

Jim Harrington, bike patrol member, said he joined the support team to give back to the community, and specifically the bike patrol because he "enjoys biking and interacting with the little kids."

"We owe a lot to Sergeant Jerry Keys," said Harrington of the training the support team has received, adding that Keys is the sergeant who tests the members before they can become official.

Smith said the department is glad to help the support team because their flexibility and willingness to assist the police whenever called upon has benefited not only the department but the town.

"They offer us extra man hours that would be covered with overtime or take officers off of normal patrol duty," said Smith. "We can keep our officers on the routine patrols and not have them tied up."

Kozup said on average they assist with traffic control either with accidents or when police are investigating a crime scene.

"A lot of our work is behind the scenes," he said. "But if we can step in and help them focus on using their skills, the community as a whole benefits."

Masters admits when the group first began, they wanted to remain behind the scenes.

"When we first started, we didn't want anybody to know we existed — it was like a secret society," said Masters. "Now [Chief Summers] sometimes refers to us as his cavalry."

"They are very helpful," said Smith. "They are always ready and willing to help at a moment's notice."