The ‘eyes and ears’ of the Sheriff

NORTH END — At first glance, they look like deputies. They have a Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office patrol car with similar insignia and lighting, and they wear the khaki brown and olive green uniforms with dark trim.

But with another look, these two people driving around the North End aren’t your traditional deputies, yet they care just as much for residents’ safety and well-being as the career KCSO personnel. They check for handicapped parking violations, complete reports on abandoned or junk vehicles and sometimes, help lost souls get home safely.

They are the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Citizens On Patrol unit volunteers, at your service.

Patrolling at a glance

On a typical four-hour-or-longer shift, volunteers work in pairs and start at the Silverdale office, where they check the COP mailbox for vacation check requests and junk and abandoned vehicle requests. They test all the equipment in the patrol car and check in with Kitsap County Central Communications/911 before starting their patrol in the unincorporated areas of the county. Unit members can set their own schedules and patrol wherever they want, although the Silverdale and Port Orchard areas are patrolled more heavily due to higher population densities.

The COP unit’s primary job is to check the handicapped parking spaces and make sure they are properly marked. If a car is parked in one, volunteers check it for proper placards or signage. The patrol car is often seen driving through most places of business that have a high demand for disabled person parking spaces, such as at Costco and Wal-Mart, and are enforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The COP program was created in 1999 for handicapped parking patrol only, but two years ago, the county commissioners requested that volunteers also monitor the county’s two-hour parking lots, such as on Ohio Street and Washington Avenue in Kingston. These lots were created for residents but commuters at the time were using them and complaints were commonplace, said volunteer and unit Sgt. Dianne Canafax. They also patrol the park and ride lots, such as behind the Kingston Albertsons.

“If people see us doing this from time to time, then people will think twice about vandalizing,” Canafax said.

COP members try and educate businesses on the importance of enforcing disabled parking and help them put up more parking signs. A COP unit can’t enforce disabled parking unless there is a posted sign at the spot — not just the painted symbol in the parking space.

More than parking


Another primary function of the group is to be the “eyes and ears” for sheriff’s deputies, said Canafax’s husband, volunteer John Albright. Volunteers can’t arrest anyone but they do have radio access to CenCom and can contact a deputy immediately if they see or hear of suspicious activity.

Vacation checks are another service they provide at no charge to residents. Upon request by the property owner, COP units will patrol the property randomly while the residents are gone. The volunteers walk around the property to make sure none of the buildings have been broken into, and check for unlocked windows and doors and doors that were not unlocked before. The unit is also given information about the house, such as alarms, cars, pets, lights and points of contact for emergencies. If there is anything suspicious, they call the emergency contact, but if a door is found open, they call a deputy.

If the sheriff’s office receives complaints about speeding in a certain area, volunteers will set up a speed reader board, showing drivers how fast they are going along a stretch of road. This information is recorded and sent to the KCSO traffic department, which determines whether a deputy should monitor the area and write tickets.

When needed, COP volunteers also help with traffic at collision scenes, allowing deputies and firefighters to concentrate on the accident investigation.

“This is a huge county and if we’re down south and an accident happens (in the North End), it would be nice to have a unit up here that could provide that service,” Canafax said.

Unit volunteers also do administrative work, such as taking care of the paperwork for junk and abandoned car requests and handicapped parking violations, allowing career deputies to be in the field more.

“It’s much more cost effective (to taxpayers) to have us doing it,” Albright said.

Saturday: Why they care and why you should, too

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