Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Outstanding Service Provided by Our Senior Volunteer Patrol

Walt Gibson, Jim Woolway, Patsy Brichta, Dee Sloan, Steve Petit and Linda Balkman with the chief after their recent graduation ceremony.
Walt Gibson, Jim Woolway, Patsy Brichta, Dee Sloan, Steve Petit and Linda Balkman with the chief after their recent graduation ceremony.

At the Christmas Parade this year, be sure and look out for our Senior Volunteer Police Force. While we are all enjoying the magical delights of lights, family, and fun, they will be there making sure we are all safe and sound.

According the website: “The Senior Volunteer Program began in 1995 with a graduating class of 18 volunteers.  Since then, the Senior Volunteer Patrol (SVP) has grown to 38 volunteers and is a great asset to the Police Department.  Since 2000 the SVP has provided over 100,000 hours of volunteer support for a savings to the city of over $2.9 million.”

You read that right: Saving our city over $2.9 million dollars!

The Senior Police volunteers was started when Lieutenant Kevin Shank went to the chief of police and said we need this program.

Mrs. Carol Pastor, well-known in Coronado for leading many community efforts, is the lead Senior Volunteer.  Carol chuckled as she told me the Chief said, “Wonderful [Kevin], and you’re in charge.”

The Program started off as a big success right away. The Senior Volunteer Patrol graduated eighteen recruits that first year.

Today over 116 members have completed the course. At a recognition dinner in January of this year, two gentleman received service for twenty years of service to the volunteer police force; eleven volunteers had service for fifteen years of service; and twenty-seven volunteers had over five years of service.

While we are all out enjoying our day or heading off to work, there are two to three are senior volunteers on patrol making sure all is well in our community.

The volunteers serve four hours a shift, with two to three volunteers on a shift in one patrol car.

Our Senior Volunteers’ patrol is the beach and bay areas, the Village, the Cays, the Shores, parking lots, and of course alleys – where they keep an eye on anyone stealing out of trash cans or, more famously in this town, bikes.

It’s no surprise that our biggest crime is bike thefts. Indeed, bike thefts are a problem for most beach communities.

Also not surprisingly, compared to other San Diego communities we have a low murder rate and a low burglary rate. When there were tragically three deaths on a New Years Day in 2012, our Senior Volunteers were there to keep the perimeter clear so that they police officers could do their jobs. Curious onlookers, of course, wanted to know what’s going on, and our Senior Patrol kept them moving along.

These volunteers also do much for our youngest residents. Each morning, they patrol the schools as students head in to classes.

Our Senior Volunteers also carry something special in their patrol car if a child is in any way part of a call that requires police assistance; they carry Teddy Bears in their patrol car. This way the Senior Volunteer can comfort the child with a Teddy Bear while the adults are resolving the matter.

They also take care of our homes while we are on vacation. If you would like to have Senior Volunteers check on the perimeter of you homes each day you are on vacation, these wonderful volunteers are charged with doing so at your request. Simply fill out this form and submit it to our Coronado Police Department. You won’t be alone. Many Coronado residents are taking advantage of this excellent way to have peace-of-mind while on vacation. In 2014 our Senior Volunteer Program conducted 1,400 house checks.

And who’s to thank when that same abandon car has been in front of your house for 72 hours? It’s our Senior Volunteers. They will make sure that the car is issued a ticket. In 2014 the Senior Volunteer Patrol gave out 869 tickets for parking in one spot for over 72 hours. Follow this link to learn more about 72 hour parking violations.

Our Senior Volunteers also keep a steady eye on Orange Avenue, especially during the summer months.  They dedicatedly stroll in uniform, reminding people about walking bikes on Orange Avenue. Mrs. Pastor stated what many locals know already: “People can really get knocked down by bikes.”

Unfortunately, our tourist friends primarily get ticketed for parking in a handicap zone.

Another service our Senior Volunteer Patrol provides us is traffic control during not only parades, but Navy Base events; and they provide assistance with the Rotary Flag Display. For the parades, they set-up and remove barriers and also remove cars that remain in the parade line.

I was surprised to learn that some people are disrespectful of our Senior Volunteer Patrol. Mrs. Pastor explained that sometimes, even while in uniform, when a Senior Volunteer asks someone to walk their bike on Orange Avenue or stay behind police lines, this person will defy them and/or say something derogatory to them.

Mrs. Pastor explained that there are two groups of people who volunteer. Retired police officers, harbor patrol, customs agents, military police and border control often volunteer for the Senior Volunteer Patrol; but she explained that there are just as many retired teachers, business people,  small business owners, and even scientists.

Overall, people who volunteer for our Senior Volunteer Patrol are folks that value community and who don’t expect accolades.

With a laugh, Mrs. Pastor explained that the biggest weapon our Senior Patrol Volunteer carries is the flashlight. We in the Coronado community know it’s not the flashlight that matters, but their eyes and ears that do much to keep us safe.

They are not sworn police officers and, of course, their personal safety is paramount. They are committed to calling for regular officers whenever they need help.

The Senior Volunteer Patrol is always interested in new volunteers. If you are over fifty years of age and able bodied, you are encouraged to apply.  Our senior volunteers do their own training and have their own curriculum. It’s a two-week course in the classroom and six weeks of field training. Here is the link to learn more.

So when you’re out at the Christmas Parade, notice our Senior Volunteers and take the time to be grateful for these dedicated, beloved members of our community.


Ann Marie Bryan
Ann Marie Bryan
When not writing, Ann Marie teaches World History and Western Civilization at Grossmont College. A job she loves as much as she loves "island life".Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]