MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- The Mount Vernon Police Department has become a leader in the area when it comes to utilizing volunteers to assist in their policing efforts. There are actually more volunteers within the department than there are commissioned officers.

“We have a commissioned police force of 45 officers when we’re fully staffed. Policing a community of 35,000 plus -- we need help. We can’t do it by ourselves,” said Mount Vernon Police Lieutenant Greg Booth. “All you have to do is start putting a ten, 20, or 30 dollar value on every hour, and you’re up to a million, two million, three million dollars worth of service that our volunteers have provided, not only for us but for the community as a whole.”

The volunteers help the department by joining the Citizens on Proactive Patrol program (C.O.P.P.) and the Senior Volunteer program. The two different groups handle low priority calls and allow the commissioned officers to focus on the highest priority calls in the community.

“They get directly involved in motor vehicle accident scene security, helping us direct traffic around motor vehicle accidents. They help us with crime scene security, they help us with evidence searches,” Lieutenant Booth said. “They respond to non-priority types of calls that we have identified as an organization that we feel comfortable with volunteers handling.”

“I feel we’re saving the city of Mount Vernon quite a bit of money and time as far as what our officers can do,” C.O.P.P. volunteer Arne Svendsen said.

To be a member of this program, you need to go through the Mount Vernon Police Citizens Academy, which helps prepare people for some of the different things they see on the street. Svendsen said he enjoys it because it’s a service to the community.

“Every time we go out it’s something new and different. We might not do hardly anything or we might be busy the whole time,” Svendsen said.

There are similar volunteer programs at other departments in the area, but Lieutenant Booth hopes to see this one grow over time.

“Our hope is that this not only continues on, but it continues to grow and expand and we get more and more creative as to how we can use citizens to help make Mount Vernon a safer and better place to live,” Booth said.