s-scarvips-013009 Scarborough needs more public safety VIPS
SCARBOROUGH — Do you have what it takes to be one of Scarborough's VIPS?
Though you may never have heard of them before, Volunteers in Police Services are considered very important people. Under the coordination of Community Resource Officer Joe Giacomantonio, the 10 trained volunteers assist police in three areas – administrative, community service and public safety patrol.
The first-of-its-kind program in Maine has grown nationwide since the events of 9/11.
One of the group's founding members, Jim Benedict, 60, has has been active in the VIPS program for more than three years. A retired construction company owner, Benedict said he volunteered in a similar program in Massachusetts in the 1970s.
Benedict said the work the VIPS do is important because it frees up police officers to concentrate on the more specialized duties they're trained to do.
"Mundane things don't require a police officer. If someone else can do those things, let them do it," he said. "We're not in place to be mistaken for a police officer."
VIPS carry out a variety of tasks, Giacomantonio said. The administrative group does filing, answers phone calls and takes care of paperwork. Those who volunteer in the community service group assist police at events like car seat checks and walk-a-thons.
The public safety VIPS act as "the eyes and ears of the Police Department," Giacomantonio said. They patrol neighborhoods, parking lots and athletic fields in a special VIPS van and are authorized to issue handicapped, fire lane and other parking violations, to direct traffic and to answer animal complaints.
Although the department welcomes volunteers for any area of the program, Giacomantonio said they have a particular need right now for more public safety VIPS. All VIPS receive training that includes operation of laser guns and speed analysis equipment, first aid and CPR.
"Anything they have an interest in, we try to get them training for," Giacomantonio said.
VIPS are asked to commit to eight hours a month plus training meetings, but many put in far more time, he said.
For Benedict, the VIPS program is time well spent.
"I get a personal feeling a pride for giving back to the town and basically filling in voids where they are necessary," he said.
For anyone interested in signing up to be a VIPS, visit scarboroughpolice.com and click on VIPS, or call 730-4244.
"The community loves the VIPS," Giacomantonio said. "People know they're there and ask for them."