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Volunteers Patrol the Streets of Malibu

Malibu's Volunteers on Patrol program allows community members to assist the sheriff's department with keeping Malibu safe. The program needs more volunteers.

Every day, puts on his white uniform, jumps into his squad car and patrols the streets of Malibu.

Armed with a two-way radio and cellphone, Villefort and a group of about eight other local residents in the Malibu Volunteers on Patrol program spend their free time helping keep the community safe.

"I have only eight volunteers, but I am looking to fill this up into a real organization and have 20 to 30 members patrolling every day," said Villefort, who has volunteered for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in various ways for the past 16 years.

The Malibu VOP program, a collaborative effort between the city and the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station, began last year through the efforts of a PCH safety ad-hoc committee that includes Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte. It is one of four VOP programs associated with Malibu/Lost Hills, with the others located in Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.

The program includes a new white squad car decorated with Malibu's city emblem.

"We are planning to install a GPS unit too," said Villefort with enthusiasm.

In spite of a new paint job and technological improvements, the program is still lacking one major component—more volunteers.

"I do this to help my community and give something back," said Villefort, who often scours Malibu in search of volunteers. "We don't get paid. But there are some people who ask what I get for this. 'You get a great uniform and you get the glory of being a good guy,' I tell them." 

For Villefort, the rewards of the job are the contacts he makes with the people of Malibu.

"You run into people you wouldn't normally [and they] really appreciate to have somebody watch their backs," he said.

The service that Villefort and the other volunteers provide is not just for show—it provides needed assistance to a sheriff's station that does not have the manpower for regular patrols of the entire Malibu area.  

"[The program] allows and enhances our ability out there because it gives us more eyes and ears on the field," said Malibu/Lost Hills Deputy Shawn Brownell. 

The volunteers don't have to fill out incident reports, write citations or make arrests like deputies do, which better enables them to be on constant patrol. The program is great for people who want to help their community and have a more proactive role in it, Brownell said.

Ultimately, the VOP program will give more opportunities for sheriff's deputies to patrol PCH and other critical areas of the city, Mayor Pro Tem La Monte said. One of the interesting things in Malibu is that there are a number of people who volunteer and care about their community, he said. The program is a reflection of that community spirit.

"[Villefort] is a treasure and he is one of the true gems in Malibu," La Monte said.

Those who wish to join the program need to be at least 18 years old, able to pass a background check and capable of dedicating a minimum of 16 hours per month to the program.

To find out more about the program, contact Deputy Brownell at 818-878-5506 or swbrowne@lasd.org. Villefort can also be reached at 310-317-9819 or VAManagement@aol.com.

V.P.A. February 13, 2012 at 05:27 PM
What powers do the Volunteers have ? What exactly is their Modus operandi that does not include filling in forms, making out reports etc., in order to document their activities? From the information in the article, it seems pretty vague as to their activities also to the standard & details of qualifications . Think one needs to know these things if there is going to be such a force lurking around!! Grey areas not being my strongpoint....,,,,,,,Enlighten me please.
Reza Gostar February 13, 2012 at 07:11 PM
"Lurking around" ? The volunteers simply patrol their designated areas and call into the station if they see or notice any trouble, much like a neighborhood watch program. They are not allowed to make arrests or anything else that is considered hazardous duty. Hope that helps fills in the grey areas for you.
flea February 14, 2012 at 02:35 AM
They provide 'eyes and ears' on behalf of the community they serve. They report back to the station or nearby deputies if anything occurs. Just like a neighborhood watch program. No sinister 'force lurking around'. Geez, these folks should be commended for their very FREE and selfless contribution to their community rather than be questioned to such a degree.
Alessandra DeClario February 14, 2012 at 09:01 AM
I am and have always been against this program. It puts power in hands that are not really trained. There already are trained profilers in law enforcement - this is a dangerous program that creates paranoia. The Neighborhood Watch Programs can do the same thing - without the expense of a special car! And usually the neighbors know who the locals are (even the "strange" ones!). My experience with this volunteers on patrol program was witnessing a police car pulling up at the post office in the Colony Shopping Center and putting a young man in the back of the police car while she(the officer) went through his backpack. The kid was waiting for his mom - who works in the post office (for years!) to go to lunch. Did he look suspicious? He was just sitting there by the fountain. The officer used the word suspicious several times and finally admitted it was a volunteer on patrol call in. Anybody can look suspicious! Sometimes I look up at the trees to see if I can see the birds that I hear sing ... I can be there for long minutes at a time.. do I look suspicious - probably to someone! Putting on special garb and driving around in a marked car can be exciting for some - maybe they want to be a Jack Bauer ("24") and go after the "bad guys". NOT a program for Malibu - adopted from a "successful program in West Hollywood" - we are not West Hollywood! They need this sort of program - Malibu doesn't have the crime they do! This program is a can of worms that already is open!
flea February 14, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Really? Malibu doesn't have a crime? Look up "Mitrice Richardson".
V.P.A. February 14, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Agree with Allessandra. No Civilised Society has a Volunteer Force to spy on it's own Citizens. We have the Police, TRAINED with qualifications to keep law and order Volunteer forces of this nature degenerate very quickly into being Vigilante, Snoop, Big Brother type organisations. That young man Allessandra describes. What a disgrace, a travesty all because and ignorant person, who shouldn't have been let off the leash, decided he looked and and therefore was odd. Is odd a crime? Further that he was not committing or seen or heard to be doing anything unlawful. Has the City of Malibu decided that it's Citizens are too degenerate, therefore need to be spied on? Allessandra refers to the fact that most of Malibu knows who's who and the shopkeepers do too. If there's anything serious happening or someone in trouble, the Police will be called immediately. Malibu and we care. McCarthyism is supposed to be dead! Who of the Residents voted for this? Why is the City so paranoid? Let's use those cars to some positive end like running the infirm or carless up and down to The Town Hall, making sure they get on a bus or meet their ride etc., etc. Or even for City business. Again, who voted for this?
V.P.A. February 14, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Flea, the Matrice Richardson case is I don't think is really appropriate in this instance as it is my understanding that It was the Police that released her in the middle of the night to no-one, and into the "Lost Hills". A Volunteer Force could not have helped this. Also, It was the restaurant that reported her to the Police saying words to the effect that she was in a great emotional state and was refusing to pay her bill. What role could a Volunteer Force have played in this? They, as far as I know, have no psychological/pschiatric or medical training or any Authority. All they can do, basically is to report. Which is exactly what the restaurant did. So, fundamentally, we are being left with a Force that can only report, in their personal opinion," suspicious circumstances", which are not necessarily illegal and are, subjective. A job, that could be construed as being one of a Tattle- tale nature!!! This I feel is a great worry. We have a community, workforce etc that are capable of alerting the Police immediately there is anything serious/criminal to deal with. Personally I'd love the California Highway Patrol to come back, leaving the Sheriff's Office freer for other things.
Ifty Talib February 14, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Well then it is a good thing that you do not live in the city of Thousand Oaks. I belong to the Volunteers in Policing (VIP) program and we have 6 vehicles. We log 35000 to 40,000 hours every year saving the city huge amount of money, while leaving the regular deputies free to respond to important calls and be pro active. Our activities are monitored by the duty Sargent, just like the regular deputies, and a running log is maintained for every vehicle documenting our movements. All the VIPs are certified in CPR. The training is very thorough and is conducted by senior officers of the Ventura County Sheriff department. The VIP is a major part of the community out reach program and serves as an important route of communication between community and law enforcement. We assist in traffic control during traffic accidents, crime scenes and during major events, such as the Amgen bicycle tour, Conejo Valley days etc. All VIPs go through a police background check, and all of them are educated,retired professionals. I can go on, but according to Sheriff Geoff Dean, VIP program is one of the reason that Thousand Oaks is considered on of the safest city in the country.
V.P.A. February 14, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Ifty Talib.: Was heartened to read your response. As far as I know, none of these duties or qualifications have been publicised by our City. If they are looking for recruits then we should know exactly what is involved and which exams need to be taken. Obviously Thousand Oaks' "Volunteers in Policing program" is an excellent one with rigorous training. Let's hope now that Malibu has one that it is as scrupulous & rigorous in it's personnel and training. Having experienced & worked with many abuses of VIP organisations in the past, perhaps you will forgive me for being cynical and untrusting of this type of operation. I appreciate your enlightenment.
Alessandra DeClario February 15, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Thousand Oaks can use that program - just like West Hollywood. Malibu doesn't have the same sort of problems. And CERT is trained in CPR, out reach, communication, traffic control, etc. What I meant about no crime in Malibu is that besides the occasional dead body found either in the mountains or on the beach (which has been going on for decades) the main crimes committed here fall into - break-ins, robbery, (house and/or car), couple of frauds, and domestic violence. Some of those "suspicious" looking people are well known. The other thing that is wrong with this sort of program - especially here in Malibu - is that once a Volunteer on Patrol calls law enforcement the door of "Probable Cause" is wide open... When there are grounds for suspicion that a person has committed a crime or misdemeanor, and public justice and the good of the community require that the matter should be examined, there is said to be a probable cause ... In the case of the young man - since he apparently looked suspicious to the Volunteer on Patrol - a call was made to law enforcement and a sheriff car came to the scene. The kid is only 16 - how would you feel!! And then put in the back of the sheriff car while his belongings are searched!! SCARY! Big Brother type mentality. Malibu use to be free and fun, with neighbors who smiled and waved and drove around dogs and kids playing in the street. This program creates fear! Dr. Alessandra (one L and 2 S's)
Alessandra DeClario February 15, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Oh, and background checks can not reveal the psychological "makings" of a human being. The person can be an elder abuser, a child molester, an embezzler, animal abuser, etc. A background check won't tell you this stuff - unless the person was arrested for such crimes, there is no record! Some people love putting on uniforms - some people love feeling "in charge".... Experience has shown that the way one thinks reflects in his/her actions. Looking for suspicious people can become an obsession and create paranoia. The main place for the sheriff is on PCH - stopping the "crime" of speeding! Malibu streets do not need cruising by law enforcement (unless someone goes on vacation and requests this - or construction sites that request this, or other minor incidents). Get the neighborhoods involved with watching their own streets!
V.P.A. February 15, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Agree 100% Alessandra, with both your latest responses. It seems, however, that we already have this Volunteer Force, and they're looking for recruits. What disturbs me further is that I'm not aware of it being thoroughly debated or voted upon. A Volunteer Force seriously affects everyone in the community on a highly personal level, and can cause huge psychological damage. Not for one moment would I place confidence in a member of such a Force, nor encourage my children to do so. If anything, their presence would arouse my suspicions of them and their motives. . All sorts of prejudices personal vendettas, phobias and the like can accompany this type of amateur organisation - the over zealous do-gooders etc., etc. We live in a glorious place let's us be happy, going about our lives as we've been used to we're supposed to be living in the land of the free.!! The City needs to rethink this. We, the residents; who are employers of the Council and taxpayers need to be consulted and be answerable to in matters as serious as this. The Police already have volunteer professional, skilled people they can call upon in emergency and rescue situations., and perhaps they could do with a few more. That is an entirely different matter.
Alessandra DeClario February 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Thanks for understanding. I first heard of this last year at a CERT meeting - it didn't start yet... I was really upset.. and I told them then my thoughts about this sort of "program"! Later it got thru... I know that 2 city council members were all for it... and that Malibu uses W. Hollywood kinda like a model (why I have no idea - except there is a husband of a staff person who works for W.H. and it may be easy to get ideas??? - But we are NO way near being a West Hollywood! - plus Malibu wants better relationship with the sheriff dept. so this could be one way to do that) I went to several City Council meetings and spoke about this issue... and all the council members know how I feel - including the sheriff dept. heads. It is supposed to be a pilot program... I asked that it be a 6 month trail program with notes taken etc. to really see the need etc. But have no idea where it stands now. Perhaps it would be good if some Malibu people who are unsure or realize the danger of this program should also let the council know. You can get to City Hall by 6:20 or so and fill out a slip and do a Public Comment at the beginning of the council meeting (usually by 7 or so). If you have to leave - it's good to stay at least until they address the issue. You can ask them to put it on the agenda for future CC meeting.The Neighborhood Watch programs seem to work fine and seem more civilized.
Ifty Talib February 15, 2012 at 06:19 PM
@ Dr. Alessandra is equating this program to something like a federal drone surveillance program. Slippery slope arguments seem unfounded, specially when the only thing happening here is that some people find it rewarding to better their communities. The Volunteers are not involved in any sort of "surveillance" neither are they part of any "spy agency" Its an organised form of neighborhood watch, kept in check by trained senior Law enforcement officers. I have lived and worked, in the wonderful city of Thousand Oaks and i am proud to be part of the efforts of the city management in keeping the city as top ten safest cities in the country. I do not think that the city, necessary, "need" the volunteers, but they definitely want and appreciate it. As for the back ground checks, seems another slippery slope argument, because if that is the case, then no one can ever qualify to be a peace officer or gain employment in any law enforcement agency. Personally, I found the callousness of the reference to "occasional dead body found either in the mountains or on the beach " offensive. But to each his own. This is my last post on this subject, and in closing all I have to say is I work with some wonderful people and I am proud to serve my city and hope my services make my community a better place to live and raise families.
Alessandra DeClario February 15, 2012 at 08:02 PM
And good for you having that spirit Ifty. You believe in it.. and that is good - it's good to believe in something. Hopefully your feelings are shared by others. I'm glad Thousand Oaks has you - I'm referring to Malibu in my posts. Good luck to you - in Thousand Oaks. There, by the way, was no callousness meant regarding the "dead bodies" - it's a reality that everyone who has lived in this area is well aware of.... Ever forward Malibu!

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