LLPD’S CITIZEN PATROL

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They don’t have official badges. They don’t use the sirens.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Timothy Naylor and Larry Wyant stand next to the Los Lunas Citizen Patrol car. The group is a five-person unit that patrols the streets of Los Lunas. The group has no police power and does not respond to emergency calls.

But you can call them an extra pair of eyes and ears.

They are the Los Lunas Police Citizen Patrol, a group of five residents who patrol the village streets and let emergency personnel know what’s going on at any given time.

Officials say the group of volunteers make an impact despite the fact that they have no police powers and don’t take police action while they are on duty. If a member of the patrol spots suspicious activity, they call dispatchers so an officer can respond to a particular call.

Members of the Citizen Patrol program, which started in July 2011, don’t have set hours. Instead, they volunteer to patrol the streets in their down time.

The members of the Citizen Patrol include James Taylor, Frank Davis, Larry Wyant, Gene Sanchez and Timothy Naylor.

Members of the group have access to a 2003 Chevrolet Impala, complete with a police scanner to patrol the neighborhood streets.

Los Lunas Police Chief Roy Melnick said the department believes in a community policing philosophy. He said programs such as the citizen’s group, and the department’s Segway and bicycle patrols help bring the community together.

“Our citizen patrol program allows our officers and community members to work closer together, building relationships, solving problems and making a difference improving the quality of life in Los Lunas,” Melnick said.

One of the members, Larry Wyant, is a retired cabinet maker, and said the group is an “interesting” way to get out of the house.

“(Police) need all the help they can get. They can’t see it all.” Wyant said.

Los Lunas Police Lt. Naithan Gurule agrees.

Gurule said the group has a vested interest in spotting suspicious activity and in the safety of the community because they are residents of the village of Los Lunas.

“The extra eyes and ears are always nice to have,” Gurule said.

Gurule said having the patrol car out on the streets is “an extra deterrent” for crime.

Naylor, a Huning Ranch resident, said he wants to help cut down on potential burglaries in the area.

The Los Lunas resident said the presence of the police car deters crime. He often sits on a side street in Huning Ranch to slow cars that race down the street and don’t always stop at the stop sign.

“It slows people down,” Naylor said. “It gets people to follow the law.”

Naylor said being in the patrol car allows him to listen to actual calls over the scanner. He said it’s “tempting” to go on calls.

He said listening to the police scanner is a part of training he plans to use if he decides to go into law enforcement.

Naylor plans to take the Los Lunas Police Department’s agility test this summer.

“The way I see it, I want to help our community,” Naylor said. “I live here.”

In some instances, members of the Citizens Patrol see things first hand that police officers don’t know about. On a recent day, Wyant said he noticed a homeless man staying behind a strip mall in Los Lunas.

Wyant said in the past, he has used his lights when there was a motorist whose truck had stalled out to keep any other vehicles from running into the truck.

But the volunteers are told they aren’t allowed to use their siren or assist people who have an immediate emergency.

“If we see anything ― mischief or a stranded motorist — we can call dispatch and they will send out an officer,” Wyant said.

Gurule said participating in the group could help volunteers become police officers should officials decide to expand the program and the number of vehicles volunteers can use.

But for now, he said officials are appreciative of the extra marked presence in town.

Some of the duties of the group are thankless and don’t always come with the adrenaline rush of a multiple car pileup or responding to a homicide call in the village limits.

But Wyant said members can tell if something is out of place.

Not all instances deal with crime. On one occasion, Wyant saw a water leak on a city building. He said he called city officials to make the repair.

In fact, spending enough time in the community allows residents to get to know who is a part of the Citizen Patrol ― something that is one of the ultimate goals of the department.

The department uses a Segway and a vehicle called a T3 to patrol places, such as the retail stores, in an effort to make a connection to residents in the village of Los Lunas.

Wyant said the group is accomplishing that community connection by participating in their patrols.

“You drive by people’s houses and they wave at you,” Wyant said. “They are glad to see you.”


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.