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Group helps keep eye on town

March 9, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Back in 2004, Citizens on Patrol was formed, comprised of members of the VFW Post 1222.

Today, they remain an active group of volunteers helping out Fairmont police with things such as house watches, park checks and assisting with parades and security when necessary.

"This was a group that wanted to give back to their community," said Fairmont police officer Craig Fowler, who assists with Citizens on Patrol. "... We do as much as we can, but it's good to have others check that as well."

Steve Langford is one of the original Citizens on Patrol.

"I really enjoy doing it, the parades and the other things," Langford said. "Every year has been different. We have done more house watch patrols; it used to be only three or four at any time, but it's gone up."

"Our last time was 16 houses," added Art Elliott, who also serves on with the group.

Before the VFW volunteers can conduct patrols, they go through some brief training, and are issued a uniform.

"They have the light blue shirts with the 'Citizens on Patrol' logo," Fowler said. "They also have the blue jackets, and they wear their VFW caps ... They are also issued an OC spray - it's a combination of tear gas and pepper spray. However, there's never been an incident when they've needed to use it."

Because Citizens on Patrol acts in a volunteer fashion, it has no power to arrest and no official association with the police, except for assistance.

"They're just a good witness for us," Fowler said.

Another Citizens on Patrol duty is checking the parks for suspicious activity, graffiti and vandalism.

"We had a few years where the vandalism at Veterans Park was really bad," Fowler said. "But we've bumped up our patrol over there; the [Citizens on Patrol] are also watching and we have that big light there at night now, and it's better. We don't want people to fear being in our parks."

Along with having a good understanding of some basic police do's and don'ts, and some of the police radio talk, the volunteers also need to pass background checks.

"They are providing a service to the community, but they are also representatives of the Fairmont P.D.," Fowler said.



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