This 25-member organization helps keep police officers on the street patrolling neighborhoods and protecting the citizenry.
On average, these volunteers save the citizens of Hazelwood around $301,000 a year by donating 10,000 to 12,000 hours of their time on a yearly basis. “We came up with this figure by taking the average per hour cost of a police officer or department staff person and multiplying it by the number of hours provided by our volunteers, which symbolizes the amount of money we saved for the City,” said Police Chief Carl Wolf.
Wolf goes on to say that his department’s VIPS is a tremendous asset to the organization, as well as to the City. “Under the police department’s management, they will do anything in the City that anybody asks them to do. Our volunteers help set things up for municipal court, work in the records room, shred papers, and take cars to be fixed and brought back. They also take radios out of the squad cars to be repaired and then re-install them, and help out in the jail area. So everything that a police officer or someone in the department would have to do, which keeps them off the streets, our volunteers step in and handle these tasks,” he added.
Nationwide, more than 38,000 volunteers work within more than 700 police departments as part of Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS). The Hazelwood Police Department began its VIPS unit in 1996. Six years later, Sgt. Don Routh, Hazelwood’s Neighborhood Action Team (N.A.T.) Supervisor, took the helm and started managing this special volunteer group up ’til now. In 2008, the Hazelwood Police Department VIPS received the “Outstanding Volunteer Unit” award from the IACP/SAIC for its efforts the year before. And, last year, the group was featured in Volunteers in Focus, a major publication produced by the national Volunteers in Police Service Program.
“We’re very proud of our department’s volunteers because they all do it for the right reason, which is to help the City of Hazelwood,” said Sgt. Routh. “They do everything ranging from coordinating school D.A.R.E. program graduations to providing traffic control at City-sponsored events, and organizing Neighborhood Watch programs to manning the St. Louis Mills police substation. This volunteer support allows more of our police officers to be out in the community instead of being chained to a desk doing paperwork.”
The Hazelwood Police Department’s VIPS unit has had a positive impact on reducing the City’s crime rate. “There’s no doubt that our department’s VIPS has allowed us to keep more police officers on the street. Hazelwood’s crime rate from 2008 to 2009 went down 17 percent which, in part, can be attributed to the backup support provided by our dedicated volunteers,” noted Wolf.
In 2010, Sgt. Routh started a new statewide organization called Missouri Volunteers in Police Services (MoVIPS) to help police departments start their own volunteer units. Administered through the Missouri Police Chiefs Association Charitable Foundation, its goal is to adopt training standards and provide information on state legislation and liability issues.