Neighbors on Watch adds 20 to ranks

Volunteers to graduate from training program; they serve as eyes, ears for police

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Twenty new Neighbors on Watch volunteers are to graduate Tuesday, after seven weeks of training, to become trained eyes and ears for the Vancouver Police Department.

That brings the total to 86 volunteers who have been trained since 2008, when Police Chief Cliff Cook brought the idea from Fort Worth, Texas, where he previously worked.

The graduation ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the West Precinct office at 2800 Stapleton Road, just off East Fourth Plain Boulevard.

Two of the new volunteers live outside Vancouver and plan to help the Clark County Sheriff’s Office start a NOW program, according to a bulletin from police spokeswoman Kim Kapp and volunteer coordinator Kelly Cheney.

NOW volunteers don’t pack guns, but they do receive training from police in using radios, observation skills and the legal aspects of what constitutes a crime.

They also are trained in first aid, CPR and using heart defibrillators.

They are trained not to confront people, but simply to radio their base station operator, another volunteer who is in direct contact with 911 dispatchers and police.

Standing out

Volunteers use a separate police radio channel and frequently can be heard on police scanners monitored at The Columbian as they conduct their patrols.

Were the volunteers to see a serious crime in progress, they are taught to withdraw, call it in discreetly and, at most, follow at a distance, police said.

Patrols can be done on foot, on bicycles and in cars; for safety, at least two volunteers work together, with a third volunteer as base radio operator.

Wearing fluorescent yellow vests, maroon T-shirts and tan caps, and with round magnetic NOW signs on their car doors, the volunteers are meant to be conspicuous. Police figure that might discourage lawbreakers such as car prowlers who see them on the streets.

On the other hand, volunteers are trained to be friendly and chat with folks they encounter on patrols, another way of finding out what’s going on.

For more information on the NOW program visit the Vancouver Police Department at www.vanpolice.org, click on Get Involved, and select Neighbors on Watch or contact volunteer coordinator Kelly Cheney at 360-487-7467.