CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — A black and white truck, equipped with blue and yellow lights on top and marked with an emblem depicting a handshake, is the newest vehicle in the Cedar Park Police Department’s fleet, but it’s not for police officers.
The department is preparing to start its Citizens on Patrol (COP) program. The program consists of citizen volunteers and acts like a “mobile neighborhood watch,” as Sergeant Jessie Campbell explained.
Citizens on Patrol program
The idea of a COP program is not a new one. Pflugerville, Round Rock, and Leander police departments all have a COP program. Sgt. Campbell says it gives the police department an extra set of eyes and ears in the community.
Here’s how it works: A team of two volunteers will patrol neighborhoods and shopping centers in the specifically marked COP trucks with the job of looking for any suspicious activity. The team cannot take any police action, only observe and report. The trucks are equipped with radios connected to police dispatch.
Sgt. Campbell says the teams will be assigned during peak times of crimes, like car burglaries.
“Just like Christmas is a peak time for shoppers. A lot of shoppers leave their packages in the vehicles, so this will be definitely instrumental in trying to deter that kind of crime,” Sgt. Campbell explained.
Who can join the COP program?
In order to join the program, you must be at least 18 years old, live or own a business in Cedar Park, and pass a background check.
Before joining the COP program, you must first complete the 14-week Citizen Police Academy the police department teaches. After completing the academy, you must complete an additional five-week program for the COP program where you will learn driving techniques and learn how to spot suspicious activity.
Cedar Park’s first COP class
The Cedar Park police department is getting ready to graduate its first 10 volunteers for the program. Sgt. Campbell said the department has received a lot of interest from the community about joining the program.
SaraMarie Blunt will be one of the first 10 volunteers to join the program. She joined the citizen police academy back in 2021 to learn more about the police department during a time when police departments around the country were losing the community’s trust.
She is hoping the COP program will have a positive impact on the community.
“Really want to make sure that we’re visible. That the citizens of Cedar Park know that there are citizens out there helping them. That they’re good people out there. They have a person to contact. That we can be there and be the eyes and ears,” Blunt said about her hopes for the program.