Retired senior patrol volunteers help police department keep community safe
In the San Diego Police Department, the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol plays a role in helping the community feel safe. The non-enforcement, non-confrontational group is active in the local Northwestern Division, supporting the officers who protect and serve.
“They are a huge part of what we do, especially with our short staff,” said local Northwestern Division Captain Manny Del Toro.
The Northwestern Division covers 40 square miles, a large area stretching from the beach at Torrey Pines all the way to Del Norte High School in 4S Ranch, from Via de la Valle to the north to Miramar to the south. At any given time there are only four patrol officers on duty for that entire area so Del Toro said they are very fortunate to have those four volunteers to assist during the daytime hours.
The volunteers are used for You Are Not Alone welfare checks for those living alone with no family or friends in the area and have been essential for vacation home checks—their visibility out in the community plays a big role in helping to deter crime. They don’t carry weapons or have direct contact with high-risk individuals but they can quickly communicate with police officers to report suspicious activity or emergency activities: “They act as eyes and ears,” Del Toro said.
The RSVPs volunteer a minimum of 20 hours a month. In preparation to serve, the volunteers go to a two-week Academy and receive training once a month to handle traffic control and low-level parking ticket enforcement, the basics of radio calls as well as how to approach issues like homelessness and mental illness.
Most volunteers are in their 60s and 70s, their youngest is in their 50s and the oldest was 83. Most do not have law enforcement experience but some have military backgrounds—at Northwestern, Del Toro said there are a lot of retired nurses and teachers, careers that are dedicated to serving people.
The SVRP program is low-funded, one uniform set is provided per volunteer and Del Toro said the biggest expense is the patrol vehicles—they use the police department’s old Crown Vics. Recently, District District 76 Assemblyman Brian Maienschein secured $300,000 in funding for three RSVP units in the Northeastern Division, where they were able to purchase three 2023 Ford Edge SUVs for volunteers.
A 33-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, Del Toro has been at Northwestern for 11 months, coming from the Southeastern Division. It has definitely been a change of pace in Carmel Valley.
In Northwestern, the biggest issues are traffic and property-related crimes, as well as a lot of juvenile mischief, challenges with e-bikes and vandalism. The RSVPs patrol are quite frequently used to provide a law enforcement presence at popular gathering spaces like Del Mar Highlands Town Center and Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch, and to alert officers if they see anything going on. In the past months, they made arrests of eight juveniles who were “wreaking havoc” in the community.
“It’s been a very quiet summer for property crimes, it was helpful to close that burglary series,” he said of arrests made in a series of 31 citywide burglaries of high-end homes earlier this year, which included nine homes in Northwestern Division.
Another big difference from Southeastern is the size of the RSVP program —there are only two RSVPs in Southeastern, compared to 15 up here.
“When I got here the biggest complaint was that they were not being utilized enough,” said Del Toro, who made sure to put them to work as much as possible.
Del Toro said he is interacting with RSVPs every day. Before each shift the volunteers take part in the officer lineups: at 6 a.m., the detective lineup at 8:30 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. They are tuned into the latest crime trends so they are confident and comfortable when out on patrol. Officers frequently take them along for extra support on crime scenes and accidents, to help gather information and, most importantly, to serve as “ambassadors of goodwill.”
“We really consider them to be part of our squad,” said Del Toro.
The San Diego Police Department is always looking for more volunteers. To learn more visit SanDiego.gov/police/recruiting/volunteer or call San Diego Police Volunteer Services at (619) 446-1016.
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