Rio Communities is starting a Citizens Patrol, a volunteer program in which residents donate their time to keep watchful eyes on the city.

The premise of the program is that trained volunteers will drive around the city in an unmarked, city-owned vehicle, observing and watching what’s happening in Rio Communities. If they see someone or something suspicious, they will call dispatch and report it.

At no time can the volunteers interact with a suspicious person, or even get out of the vehicle to talk to a concerned citizen. Their main purpose is to observe and report. The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office has offered to train the volunteers on what they can and cannot do during their time on patrol.

The concept of a Citizens Patrol is not new to Valencia County. Bosque Farms has had a similar program for decades. Volunteers have continued to make their program a success and it’s helped local law enforcement keep the community safe.

As a new city, Rio Communities has a small budget, but has been able to pay for one, full-time Valencia County sheriff’s deputy to patrol the city. Other deputies and New Mexico State Police also patrol the area off and on as well.

The idea of a Citizens Patrol in Rio Communities came after several dozen citizens attended multiple meetings, demanding the governing body to do more about crime in the community. One vocal resident who regularly attends the council meetings brought up the idea of a Citizens Patrol.

Hearing the concerns of the residents, and looking at the success of the Bosque Farms program, city officials decided a Citizens Patrol could help. Councilors Peggy Gutjahr and Josh Ramsell began researching the program and are asking for volunteers to be part of the solution.

They held a public forum last week about the Citizens Patrol, hoping residents would come out to listen what the program is about and ultimately volunteer their time to keep their community safe. Only three people attended the meeting, including the citizen who initiated the idea.

It’s understandable people become upset when they are victims of crime. It’s also understandable that they reach out to their city leaders for answers. But what isn’t understandable is when those people who continue to complain aren’t willing to be a part of the solution.

Another public forum will be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 26, in the council chambers at Rio Communities City Hall. We encourage those who are concerned, those who want to make a difference and those who have a couple of hours a week to volunteer to attend this meeting and learn what they can do to help.

Making a difference in your community is much more than complaining about a problem. It’s about doing something about it, volunteering and giving of your time and effort.

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