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Utica, Rome looking for volunteer police services

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Utica, Rome looking for volunteer police services
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The City of Rome has used its Volunteers in Police Services program for years to free officers from smaller tasks like traffic control around an accident. Now, Utica could be looking at following Rome to help out a shorthanded police department after a hard hitting budget season. Our Andrew Sorensen takes a look at what some lawmakers in Utica are proposing and if it could really help.

UTICA, N.Y. -- The Utica Common Council Public Safety Committee wants you to serve.

Common Council Majority Leader Frank Meola gives an example of what he's looking for Monday: "Blocking roads for a fire, additional crossing guards possibly, helping us for the Boilermaker and road blocks."

After the city budget cut 17 police positions, members of the committee are looking for volunteers to revive the volunteer police service program.

"It's a help, it takes a lot of responsibility off of our police department," Meola said.

But the police department says it wants a structured plan before approving anything. Fortunately, the committee doesn't need to look far to find a good model.

Rome Volunteers in Police Service Liaison Lt. Johnathan Carr said, "We use them for residential property checks, business security checks, they assist with traffic control for emergencies, both in the inner district and the outer district of Rome."

Rome's volunteers aren't allowed to arrest people like regular officers, but Rome police say they are well worth the cost.

"The amount of service they provide to the city is huge," Carr said.

Not to mention what they save. Volunteers cover the costs of equipment and uniforms with fundraisers and use out of commission vehicles, so there are no costs to the city. But they also save time during the city's big events.

"Well, they're going to tie up more man power that could be used elsewhere, investigating crimes or conducting neighborhood canvasses," said Carr.

Rome's volunteers also conduct neighborhood checks, a service some in Utica feel is unnecessary.

"We're fortunate enough to have the mayor do sweeps. Our mayor gets right on the city streets."

Mayor Robert Palmieri's sweeps have yielded multiple arrests and higher codes enforcement, but free help in cleaning up the streets will probably be more than welcome.

Rome's Volunteers in Police Services program is also recruiting for volunteers. Those interested in the job do need to undergo about 90 hours of training before they are allowed out in the field.

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