Police volunteers now walking in downtown Santa Barbara

10-member team has been deployed

Police volunteers are now assisting in downtown Santa Barbara. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A new group  of volunteers has begun walking the downtown beat in Santa Barbara as part of a new police department program.

They are called the VIP team  which stands for Volunteers in Policing.

Walking on State Street Tuesday Howie Giles who directs the team said he has made about 40 to 50 contacts with businesses already. He generally works with a partner.  Together they are answering questions from the public and dealing with nuisance issues.  "Many have expressed their appreciation of our presence," said Giles.

Recently many business owners spoke out about the need for more police officers downtown.  While they are not sworn officers, the VIP group represents the police department. They can not make arrests but they can make a difference.  They have police radios and cellular phones.

If a situation requires an additional response,  a patrol unit will be called.

"We don't have enough police officers to put one on every block, said Sgt. Bryan Jensen who says the volunteers are very helpful.    "Their backgrounds just blows me away."

This program covers an area from Gutierrez to Victoria streets. 

Giles says contact by the volunteers often helps a person avoid a ticket if they comply with the VIP advice and resolve the issue on the spot.

There are ten volunteers now and the program has room to grow.

Other areas of focus in the future may be the waterfront and Milpas Street.



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