Above – volunteers Gilbert Brenneis and Judith Clarke attend the recent Active Living Fair to raise awareness on the local watch organization.
by Stephen Dafoe
Armed with nothing more than a pen and paper, cell phone, flashlight, police scanner, and a couple of cups of coffee, a small number of residents regularly take to the streets of Morinville, keeping their eyes and ears open for what doesn’t look and sound right. They’re Citizens on Patrol (COP), a civilian watch organization that has been operating in Morinville since 1997. Over the past two decades, the volunteer group has been doing their part for community policing in Morinville.
But lately, COP is limited in just what they can do to help police because they are severely limited in the number of volunteers they have at their disposal.
Gilbert Brenneis, a volunteer and equipment coordinator with the watchdog organization, said the local chapter has 12 active members.
“We definitely need more, and that’s the thing – to get the word out there,” he said. “There are a lot of people that don’t know we are out there and they don’t know what we are about.”
Brenneis said he believes one of the challenges in getting more volunteer members is that people are of the belief they have to commit a lot of time. They don’t. The long-time volunteer said members are required to do patrols, but they can do patrols when they are available and wish to do them.
“We ask for one patrol a month,” he said, noting the more patrols volunteers can do, the more the organization can assist police. ”
Volunteers use their vehicle, are paid mileage, and travel two to a vehicle on 90-minute to two-hour patrols.
“We never get out of the vehicle. We’re just the eyes and ears of the RCMP,” Brenneis explained.
The COP member said the type of person the group is looking for are the type that does not want to get out of the vehicle and start a confrontation. Citizens on Patrol are not vigilantes – they are observers and informers, providing police with real time details on crime and potential crime.
All volunteers need to have a positive outlook about the community and police, undergo a criminal record check, and take some training, which consists of three patrols with experienced members. After that, they are sanctioned to do patrols.
“There’s a real need,” Brenneis said of the desperate need for members, noting at one point the group considered shutting down. However, they have persevered and are redoubling their efforts to get more Morinvillians to assist them in their work.
Those looking for more information on Citizens on Patrol can visit their website at http://www.morinvillecop.org.