Police Department Welcomes New Team Members
Niles VIPs: Volunteers in Police Service
The Police Department and the Department of Public Works had discussed for some time the possibility of having a citizen patrol in Niles. We envisioned many benefits for the city. We felt it would be helpful to have volunteers patrol the City's parks and downtown area so people using the park and shopping in the downtown area would see the presence of City representatives who were there to answer questions.
We also wanted a program where the volunteers were empowered to be problem solvers for the community. That way if there were parking, code enforcement, street, water, or sanitation issues the volunteers would be trained in how to notify the appropriate department in the city about the problem so the issue could be quickly resolved.
Another part of the program we considered was how we were going to provide transportation for the volunteers in a form that could be easily operated in the city streets and on park paths. We looked at golf carts but they are not legal to operate on the street. While doing this research we came across an electric vehicle called a GEM. This vehicle seemed like a perfect fit. It is legal to operate on the street and is small enough to safely operate in a park setting. It also has quite a bit of visual appeal which we hoped would attract people's attention to the program and residents would quickly recognize the vehicle as belonging to the program.
Once we felt we had a good idea of the direction we were going to take with the volunteer program we asked the City Council for approval to more forward. The City Council unanimously approved the concept. The Police Department then submitted the program to the International Association of Chief's of Police (IACP) for acceptance into the national Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program. The Police Department's program received an IACP certificate in 2007 designating the Niles Police Department as a certified VIPS department.
The City of Niles has high hopes for this program. We are looking forward to our VIPS having a very visible presence during summer park time and at all our community events. We hope our citizens and visitors to our community take advantage of the VIPS by using them to answer questions or act as a liaison to other city departments to help solve problems. If you are interested in volunteering for this program contact Catherine Jackson, Human Resource Specialist for an application. Cathy is located in City Hall or call her at 269-683-4700 ext. 3040. If you have general questions about the program call the Niles Police Department at 269-683-3282 and ask to speak with Chief James Millin. He will be happy to talk to you about the program.