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VIPS stretch CPD
The Ceres Police Department would love to find more Don Emery, Bill Meese and Glen Safrit types.

They're dedicated and save the city thousands of dollars by volunteering their time to carry out police services.

The three men are among 21 volunteers who have signed up for VIPS, or Volunteers in Public Safety. Sgt. Allen McKay would like to find more mature individuals who are interested in becoming part of the Ceres police family by volunteering their time and experience to the community.

"They work hundreds of hours a month," said McKay of the VIPS force. "They save us tens of thousands of dollars over the years. And they have a chance to get involved. They really help us a lot."

VIPS result in a great savings for taxpayers. McKay said the state figures that a volunteer hour is worth $20.50.

VIPs generally work uniformed patrols in a marked VIP car, assisting police at traffic collisions, fires, and special events such as DUI checkpoints and football games. VIPs are also involved in fingerprinting children, parking enforcement, being an extra set of eyes in the community and many other aspects of law enforcement. They also issue citations for water wasting, parking violations, garage sales without permits and expired vehicle registration tags.

The VIPS unit also has three female volunteers. One of them played a shopping last year as part of a police purse-snatching operation.

"Sixty percent of VIPS are young guys who want to be cops," said McKay. "We're really pushing for seniors right now because their intentions seem to be better and they have more time."

What kind of people sign up to become VIPS? McKay says they "like being useful, they like to give back to the community. It's a good way to get attached to an organization. They're really a valuable unit."

Bill Meese, a retired Maricopa school district superintendent, said being in VIPS allows him to do something constructive with his time.

"I'd be sitting at home watching TV," said Meese, whose been with VIPS for 13 years.

Safrit, who retired after working for John Deere for 25 years, said it's a great opportunity for community service. He's called Ceres home for 63 years. Safrit volunteers once a week for about six hours.

Emery serves as the unit's captain, working in time outside his part-time job as a security officer. The former truck driver said it's fun volunteering for the city.

"It's got it's good times and bad times," said Emery. "You don't make anybody happy when you write them a citation for handicapped parking. They'll list every excuse in the book ... on why they park there. We have our times when somebody will get upset at us."

Emery spends about five to six hours per day, four to five times per week in the VIPS program.

Another dedicated member of VIPS is Earl Wittner.

Persons interested in becoming a VIP should have a desire to give 10 to 20 hours a month to the community by becoming evolved in this exiting and rewarding hobby.

Applicants should have a clean criminal history and a valid driver's license. Persons interested in becoming a Volunteer in Public Service should contact Sgt. Allen McKay by dropping into the Ceres Police Station or calling 538-5719. Applicants must pass a short background check, attend a monthly meeting and some undergo some minor training.