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Horseback posse spreads smiles

Reserve sheriff's deputies patrol Valencia Town Center

Posted: December 21, 2008 8:47 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Connie Figgins, a reserve sheriff's deputy, rides Apache through the Valencia Town Center Sunday. The posse volunteers help keep mischief at a minimum on the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.

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Perched atop her horse Freedom, Reserve Sheriff's Deputy CC Colvett scanned the east parking lot of the Westfield Valencia Town Center Sunday looking for any holiday mischief.

She wore her reserve deputy uniform and a radio on her belt, while Freedom sported a big red scarf around the neck.

"We want to make people smile," she said.

Colvett led five members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Reserve and Volunteer Posse around the town center in columns of two, passing out candy canes and watching the grounds for any potential problems on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

"I think we're generally a deterrent (for crime)," she said. "If we see something, we would call for assistance if it was necessary."

Each year the posse starts patrolling around the Thanksgiving holiday and continues through the weekend before Christmas. It's a tradition that dates back more than a decade, said Sheriff's Deputy Artie Thompson said. The posse volunteers put their horses through a 40-hour sensory training program and the horses must pass a proficiency test before heading to the streets.

"They're the eyes and ears for deputies in patrol cars here," he said. The posse steps in "if there's an issue in the parking lot or even a kid just wanting to pet a horse with reindeer ears on."

Thompson said Sunday would likely be the busiest day of the year for the town center.

Throughout the morning the team clip-clopped through the parking lots and watched over the entrance of the mall, where shoppers scurried about with arms full of bags.

"I just didn't expect a bunch of horses to be standing outside of the mall," said Tatiana Romanowsky, 16, of Agua Dulce. "I was surprised."

Tim Gunther said he joined the posse five years ago because he wanted to give back to the community and give his horse a job to do.

"We couldn't have found a better job for them, he said. "Our horses love it."

He usually patrols other events throughout the year, but "this is the one thing I won't miss," he said.

"There's excitement in the air when all the children are around. Everywhere you go, there's somebody who wants to see your horse," he said.

"It's mostly about saying hi, letting the kids pet the horses and show them (the sheriff's department) has a softer side."


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