Hesperia's Citizens On Patrol volunteers put in more hours in 2009 than any other group of COPs in the county, for the second year in a row.
The volunteer arm of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the 51 Hesperia station COPs put in 21,039 hours of work in 2009, or an average of 412 hours per volunteer. In contrast, the Yucaipa Citizen Patrol, which also has 51 members, put in 9,046 hours, or 177 hours per volunteer. Even the Big Bear Citizen Patrol, which is a larger force with 60 members, put in less time: 16,048 hours, or an average of 267 hours each. (The Hesperia station also held the record for most hours worked in 2008: 16,500, ahead of the closest runners-up even now.)
There are Citizen Patrols throughout the Victor Valley:
* The 44 members of the Apple Valley Citizen Patrol put in 16,650 hours, for an average of 378 hours each.
* The five members of the Adelanto Citizen Patrol put in a total of 2,117 hours, for an average of 423 hours each.
* The nine members of the Lucerne Valley Citizen Patrol put in a total of 1,691 hours, for an average of 187 hours each.
* The 33 members of the Spring Valley Lake Citizen Patrol put in 11,570 hours, for an average of 350 hours each.
* The 14 members of the Victor Valley Citizen Patrol put in 6,975 hours, for an average of 498 hours each.
* The 19 members of the Victorville Citizen Patrol put in 5,119 hours, for an average of 273 each.
But none of the other 40 citizen patrols in San Bernardino County comes close to Hesperia's 21,039 hours (Apple Valley and Big Bear come the closest, and each falls about 5,000 hours short). The Hesperia station actually has more volunteers than patrolmen on the street -- 51 versus 41 -- which allows the station to use the COPs to cover for many of the tasks that sworn officers spend time doing in other areas.
"My goal two years ago was to not only increase the hours [worked], but also increase the number of people doing the hours," said Hesperia station COP unit commander Steve Sensenbach. Traditionally, he said, he'd seen 20 percent of the volunteers putting in 80 percent of the total hours worked.
A rookie deputy just out of the academy makes $29 an hour without benefits, meaning the program in theory saved the city of Hesperia more than $610,000.
"They're always being tasked with more to do," said Hesperia station spokeswoman Roxanne Walker, who oversees the program at the station. "Over the years, they've proven themselves reliable, so they get more to do."
The Hesperia COP volunteers have taken over many of the jobs that deputies out of other stations have to work themselves, including welfare checks on elderly residents, monitoring the homes of residents on vacation to watch for signs of break-ins, directing traffic at accident and crime scenes, manning the station's mobile command post when it's out in the field, work DUI checkpoints and assist during gang sweeps. The COPs also deliver vehicles and other items to headquarters and the courthouse from the station.
"If we didn't do it, the deputies would have to do it," said Walker, "Or it wouldn't get done."
The stations in the Victor Valley run two academies for new COPs each year, although the 2010 sites and dates have not yet been determined. Anyone interested in becoming a Citizen On Patrol can stop by their local sheriff's station and pick up an application form.
"They've recovered vehicles, found lost children," said Walker. "They really are the eyes and ears of the community."
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.