Citizens On Patrol
Pat Prince
and Howard Rinehart

ImageThe Citizens on Patrol program (COP) is a deterrent to crime rather than law enforcement. Patrol cars simply drive through the community to display the presence of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in neighborhoods. Frequent patrols have proven to result in lower crime rates by making those neighborhoods too risky for criminal activity. While COP patrols never confront criminals, they are fully trained to watch for criminal activity and communicate directly with PCSO dispatchers on official radio channels should any questionable activity be observed.
The typical patrol includes a driver and an observer riding in an official Sheriff vehicle. While patrols drive through all neighborhoods they also drive by and make a planned effort to observe homes participating in the “house watch” program. Residents of communities that participate in the COP program can notify the Sheriff’s Office that their home will be vacant for an extended period of time and request that COP observers pay particular attention to their home. During night patrols special attention on local businesses is always on the patrol itinerary. Drivers have all received training in a variety of police procedures including CPR, radio discipline and tactical driving skills.
Pinal County’s COP program was started under Sheriff Chris Vasquez and has grown considerably under Sheriff Paul Babeu. In 2009 the program included only Gold Canyon, where 6,500 volunteer hours were achieved … a monetary equivalent of 131,000 dollars. In 2010 the program was expanded to include San Tan and Arizona City. In those areas they achieved 8,400 volunteer hours equating to 175,000 dollars. The greatest gain has been shown in 2011 … with 13,600 volunteer hours equating to 290,000 dollars. The COP program created little cost to Pinal County and the program is deemed to be financially self-supporting through donations.
ImageOne unusual “donation” is the organization’s distinctive Hummer that is used for COP related, and other community activities. This vehicle was seized by the PCSO after a drug bust / car chase and was in really bad physical shape.  COP representatives were able get the vehicle returned to drivable condition through a donation of time and materials from Legends Cadillac & Hummer.
Problems in other parts of Pinal County, such as Arizona City, are far worse than our Gold Canyon area. The degree of desperation experienced by those burglarizing homes in some areas is better understood when one realizes that the items stolen are blankets, food, socks and other items of clothing. High valued items like televisions and jewelry are often left untouched.
Our own Rotarian Charlie Hernandez has encouraged his employer, Liberty Water, to contribute to Citizens on Patrol with total donations exceeding more than $10,000.