Ah yes, New Year’s: a time for reflecting on the past year, and more importantly, making resolutions to change in the upcoming year. Maybe this is going to be the year you drop those pesky last 15 pounds, or the year you finally clear all your debts. But why not also consider a resolution to help reduce crime in our neighborhood? Volunteers in Patrol groups are getting ready for their annual membership push, and local organizers tell us they could use all of the neighborhood support they can get. Not exactly sure what you’d be signing up for? We’ll break down the ABC’s of the VIP.

For those who don’t know, what is the VIP program?

Basically, the Volunteers in Patrol, or VIP program, allows residents to prevent crime in their own neighborhood by becoming the eyes and ears of the Dallas Police Department by patrolling streets. The program also brings the neighborhood closer together by building camaraderie among residents who want to create a safer community. This sends a strong message to criminals that your neighborhood is aware, alert, involved, and will not tolerate criminal activity. Statistics have shown that an active VIP program can result in significant reductions in neighborhood crimes.

And how does the VIP program work?

Neighborhood volunteers donate time to patrol their blocks by driving the streets in their own vehicles, although the cars have a magnetic sign identifying them as VIP patrols – and many of these cars even have a flashing amber light. Volunteers never patrol by themselves; they only ride in pairs or teams. The VIP groups are structured and have officers, rules and by-laws. The groups typically evolve from a neighborhood crime watch organization or homeowners association. They maintain close contact with the police department’s Interactive Community Policing (ICP) officers at one of the six patrol stations located throughout the city. Additionally, VIP volunteers maintain a vigil to be alert for situations or activity in their neighborhood that could create problems or possibly lead to criminal activity and report it to their neighbors – such as open garage or house doors, or open yard gates that might allow unattended children access to pools.

Do VIP volunteers go through any kind of training?

Yes, all volunteers receive professional training by Dallas police officers. The VIP program is non-confrontational, so volunteers are taught to not approach suspicious activity or persons, but rather to back away from the situation and, if possible, remain in sight and observe until the police respond to the scene.

So, can anyone in the neighborhood volunteer for the VIP program? And how do volunteers go about joining?

VIP volunteers must be 21 years of age, in good health, have a valid driver’s license and have no criminal record. A completed application is submitted to the Dallas Police Department for a background check. Once approved, volunteers are required to complete a seven-hour training program. Neighbors interested in being part of a Volunteers In Patrol program should contact their neighborhood crime watch or homeowners association to see if there is an active program in the neighborhood, or contact the ICP office at the police substation that serves your area, or call 214-670-7247 for information.

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