Saturday, February 8, 2003

Citizens on patrol more than 2 years

Westwood volunteers work with police

By Angela T. Koenig
Enquirer contributor

Volunteers with Westwood's Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP), are heading into their third year with thousands of patrol hours under their feet.

"We're just the eyes and ears for the police,'' said Bruce McClung, who in February 2001 was among the first 16 Westwood volunteers to train for COPP.

COPP is sponsored by the Cincinnati Police Department. After a 12-hour training course, which includes instruction on how to identify and report criminal behavior, volunteers are outfitted in COPP attire and equipped with police radios. They patrol the streets on foot - or on bike in fair weather - and report directly to their police district.

Today, there are 35 Westwood COPP volunteers who patrol the city's largest neighborhood. At least one patrol - made up of three volunteers - goes out two to three nights a week.

In its first year, Westwood COPP logged about 1,200 patrol hours and 950 service hours. Dave Garrett, the Westwood citizen volunteer coordinator, estimates the hours in 2002 will meet or exceed 2001 figures. Service hours include activities beyond patrolling.

In addition to reporting illegal activity, this group keeps on top of the comparatively mundane issues such as litter, junk cars and downed street signs, said District Three's COPP liaison officer Sgt. Chad Richter.

"They actually contact whatever group or agency is in charge and get it taken care of,'' Sgt. Richter said.

"It's not only the crime issues, but the quality of life issues that are very important in Westwood," said Garrett.

"I think it's a proactive way to improve the safety and livability of the neighborhood,'' said McClung. "You learn part of your community that you never knew was there."

According to COPP administrators, 21 of Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods have COPP in place. The next training course begins Feb. 13. Contact Cincinnati's Community Oriented Policing office, 352-2989.

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