Citizens volunteer their eyes and ears on city's trails
May 05, 2020 11:02AM
By Mimi Darley Dutton
Draper’s Volunteers in Police Service pose pre social distancing with Chief John Eining, the specially marked vehicle for the program, and one of the e-bikes the city purchased, all in an effort to increase visibility and communication in the city. Not pictured is Mary Squire. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Soon residents will see men and women clad in blue shirts and gray pants walking the trails, riding electric bikes (e-bikes) or driving the city’s neighborhoods in a specially marked vehicle. They’re the 10 people chosen to be Draper’s Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS).
In January, the police department advertised for volunteers on their Facebook page. Roughly 30 applications were received with the intent of filling 10 positions, according to Draper Police Chief John Eining. All applicants went through a panel interview and the final 10 were eventually chosen.
“We thought 10 would be the easiest to manage right now,” Eining said, adding that the VIPS program has existed nationally and in other Utah cities, including Sandy, where he previously worked. “They had a model in place that we were able to replicate in some areas and then some of it we uniquely designed to fit our situation.”
The VIPS team is made up of six women and four men: Gerel Altankhuyag, Lori Johnson, Dean Lowe, Ben Paynter, Mary Squire, Lisa Berente, Jason Koop, Travis Meihls, Jeri Rollins and Da Yang Wipfel. After 100 cumulative hours of training, each person will volunteer eight hours per month to be walking, driving or biking through the community, always with a VIPS partner, to promote the safety of all. They’ll continue to meet monthly for additional training.
By what Eining deemed a “happy coincidence” and a “good mix,” Draper’s VIPS live in different areas of the city and come from varied professional backgrounds, including a commercial airline pilot, an attorney, educators and IT people. “One neat thing about this group is they have great camaraderie, so it’s working out really well,” he said.
After a woman was attacked on a Draper trail last September, councilmember Tasha Lowery suggested the city look into e-bikes that city employees could ride around town on their breaks to increase visibility on the trails. The city purchased five Fezzari brand e-bikes. “We decided to incorporate that idea with the VIPS, so now the VIPS will have another opportunity to ride those trails and be more visible. Then, when they’re not on them, city employees can use them on their lunch breaks,” Eining said.
The role of the VIPS is not to take police action themselves, but to be more eyes and ears for the police department and to call into a supervisor to dispatch police officers if needed. They’ll be equipped with a cell phone or radios for that purpose.
“The main goal is to heighten our visibility. Residents can see them and associate them with the police department. It’s an opportunity for VIPS to talk to residents and communicate messages they want to pass on, or receive information so we’re listening to the concerns of the residents and we have a different mode of communication,” Eining said.
The VIPS were ready to begin volunteering in March, but they’ve been put on standby in accordance with the “stay safe, stay home” directive.