Neighborhoods hire off-duty cops to keep the peace

June 2, 2005
Never a cop around when you need one? Then do as three Rockrimmon-area neighborhoods did and hire a private police force to ensure squad cars are cruising your streets a couple hours a week.
Actually, the neighborhoods hired offduty police officers and sheriff’s deputies to conduct random patrols. The officers work two-hour shifts in uniform, carrying weapons and driving their squad cars. All have their police powers to write tickets and make arrests. And because the neighborhoods hire the officers through the Police Department, there are no issues of insurance, liability or workers’ compensation. Different issues led the neighborhoods to pay for the extra police presence — $24.25 an hour, of which the city keeps $1.75 for administrative costs and use of the squad car. The rest goes to the officers. Folks in the Discovery neighborhood just wanted a little insurance. In nearby Comstock Village, mailbox vandalism was the impetus. In Pinecliff, on the southern edge of Rockrimmon, it was mail theft. “We’ve been doing it for a long time,” said Jan Doran of the Discovery neighborhood. “We started about eight years ago to keep down vandalism. But there were never really any problems.” All requests go through Anita Henderson, the Colorado Springs police extraduty coordinator. Requests are posted for any officer interested in working overtime. Unfilled requests are offered to El Paso County sheriff’s deputies. “We have 80 to 90 officers a month working extra duty,” Henderson said. Sometimes the officers concentrate on speed enforcement. Or watch for vandalism. Or enforce the city’s 10 p.m. weeknight curfew on minors — midnight on weekends. “We’ll see them drive around and shine their spotlights between the houses looking for things,” Doran said of her Discovery area, which straddles Delmonico Drive between Rockrimmon Boulevard and Woodmen Road. “They will even go up to a house, ring the doorbell at 1 a.m., and tell you that your garage door is open and you need to close it or you’re going to get robbed.” In Comstock Village, a neighborhood of about 600 homes along Allegheny Drive near Foothills Elementary, the homeowners association followed Discovery’s lead after vandals attacked. “We never see many police up here,” said Pat Webb, the Comstock Village administrator. “We had typical problems, especially busted mailboxes. You know, kids late at night with ball bats. That kind of things.” So they hired off-duty police for general security, such as morning patrols to ensure children get safely to school. Or they do speed patrol and cruise on weekend nights. “It’s just giving us more of a police presence,” Webb said. “People here like it. We hear great comments about it. Of course, the police can’t be around to catch every little thing that happens. But you see them around.” It’s a similar story in Pinecliff, a neighborhood of 600 homes just north of Garden of the Gods Road. About a year ago, residents got fed up with a growing theft problem. “We were victims of mailbox theft,” said Sharon Hutchison, president of Pinecliff’s homeowners association. “We were hoping that having police cars in the neighborhood at odd times of day and night would help deter that theft.” They contracted with the Colorado Springs Police Department for 10 hours of random patrols each week. “It’s been beneficial for everyone,” Hutchison said. Then she thought again. “Well, they are catching a lot of speeders,” she said. “And they are, of course, our neighbors. But that was a problem, too. We have a lot of people complaining about speeders and it’s been a deterrent.” Discovery pays for the patrols by asking for voluntary donations from its members. About 60 percent pay $20 a year for the service. In Comstock, residents voluntarily pay $10 extra per year. And in Pinecliff, the association simply designates a portion of the $30 annual dues to pay for patrols. All three say it’s money well spent. “We’ve been pleased,” Hutchison said. “It’s nice to know the police are driving through. It gives us peace of mind.” Tell us about your neighborhood: 636-0193 or TO HIRE A COP Neighborhoods or groups interested in hiring off-duty police officers can contact Anita Henderson, extra-duty coordinator, at the Colorado Springs Police Department, 444-7440.
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