Hamstrung by shrinking budgets, the police say the volunteers are indispensable in dealing with low-level offenses and allow sworn officers to focus on more pressing crimes and more violent criminals.
“We had the option to either stop handling those calls or do it in a different manner,” said Fresno’s police chief, Jerry Dyer, whose department has lost more than 300 employees in recent years. “I’ve always operated under the premise of no risk, no success. And in this instance, I felt we really didn’t have very much to lose.”
Other chiefs facing budget problems are also using volunteers. In Mesa, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb, 10 of them have been trained to process crime scenes, dust for fingerprints and even swab for DNA. In Pasadena, Calif., a team of retirees is combating identity theft ”” and, apparently, their own ennui.