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Out on patrol with the sheriff's helpers

Volunteers aid SCV deputies

Posted: October 7, 2008 8:58 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A sheriff's deputy cuffs a man suspected of public intoxication Tuesday, after an arrest made with the help of SCV Sheriff's Station volunteers.

The next time a ticket is planted under your windshield, you can't always blame sheriff's deputies. The Volunteers on Patrol might have slapped you with the citation, a sheriff's official said.

Armed with flashlights, walkie-talkies and decked out in white uniforms, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's volunteers do jobs deputies don't have time to do, said Lt. Brenda Cambra of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

"You can't play golf every day," volunteer Frank DiGiovanni said. He is retired after 41 years working for the Auto Club of Southern California. With two sons in law enforcement and a wife who also volunteers for the Sheriff's Department, serving as a volunteer on patrol came naturally, he said.

DiGiovanni is in his third year riding the Tuesday patrol with his partner Michelle Kampenga. When Kampenga isn't citing scofflaws, she owns Girl Friday Errand Service. Her life-assistance company helps people with everything from potting plants to making doctor appointments.

"I wanted to serve my community as a whole," she said.

Volunteers give back by running vacation checks on homes. The service is offered by the Sheriff's Station to deter crime and allow home owners peace of mind when they are on vacation, Kampenga said.

On Tuesday, DiGiovanni and Kampenga climb a Canyon Country hill in their cruiser and stop a block from a house to check a home empty while the owners are on vacation. As the volunteers hop out of the cruiser, DiGiovanni spots a man walking away from the house. The deputy jumps into action and tells the man to stop.

DiGiovanni asks the man if he lives in the home. The answer is no. The man, who asked not to be identified, works in the human resources department for the Burbank Police Department. He is conducting a background check on a local candidate applying for the Burbank Police Department.

Several blocks away, DiGiovanni and Kampenga find a car with an expired registration sticker. The volunteers run the registration and discover the car's owner lives at the home the car is parked in front of. Instead of a ticket, DiGiovanni and Kampenga give the elderly home owners a warning.

Roger Rivas agrees to move the car, which he said belongs to his son. He thanks the volunteers and tells them to stop by for coffee whenever they are in the area.

"It's really nice when people thank you for the job you do," DiGiovanni said.

There are more than 100 volunteers at the Sheriff's Station, 23 of them on patrol.

The time volunteers spend frees deputies to focus on higher crimes and saves the department money, Cambra said. Not every volunteer patrols the street.

Jack Pascoe is in his tenth year as a volunteer. Pascoe works the desk at the Sheriff's Station. He searches for sheriff's reports and fills out time-consuming auto return forms to release cars from the impound lot.

"It's fun and I can set my own hours," he said.

DiGiovanni and Kampenga scan the street as they drive Soledad Canyon Road. DiGiovanni spots a man passed out on a bus stop bench. He pulls over and Kampenga yells to get the man's attention. He doesn't respond. The volunteers radio for backup from deputies, who arrived in seconds. The man admitted he was drinking and deputies arrested him.

"They are an extra set of eyes on the street," Deputy Doug Huntley said after cuffing the allegedly drunk man.


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