By ELAINE COHEN

Canadian Jewish News, April 2016 (PDF version: CJN, Trained volunteer unit contributes to safe community, April 7, 2016)

The men and women of Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol

The men and women of Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol

People may regard their home as their sanctuary, but a dwelling can only be as safe as the community surrounding it. Cote Saint-Luc City Councillor Glenn J. Nashen was well aware of this security component when he spearheaded the formation of vCOP (volunteer Citizens on Patrol), in 2006.

“Looking back after nearly 10 years of operation, I am so pleased to see how our dedicated group of volunteers, supported by our innovative city council, has succeeded in making our city the most secure on the Island of Montreal,” Nashen said.

The first group of its kind in Quebec, Cote Saint-Luc’s vCOP has evolved from a handful of volunteers into a well-honed unit of 85 men and women ranging in age from 18 to 90.  Supervisor of Training and Logistics, Mitchell Herf, confers with three other supervisors. “We are all volunteers with a vested interest in the city,” said Herf, 55, who came on board in 2007. A self-employed businessman, he works from home, which permits monitoring of activities and patrols at all hours.

The members are not law enforcement personnel; however, vCOP serves a vital role as the “eyes and ears” of the city. Herf refers to the astute team as “first reporters”. “We assess the situation and contact the Cote Saint-Luc dispatch centre via two-way radio,” Herf said. “We work under the guidance of and collaboration with Cote Saint-Luc Public Security, and the Montreal police and fire departments.” EMS, the city’s volunteer Emergency Medical Services, also plays a paramount role.

Recruits attend seven training sessions, which includes in class, on the road, and basic first aid, AED (Automatic External Defibrillation) and CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) modules. They embrace observational and patrolling skills, incident response protocols, personal safety, municipal by-laws, as well as crime prevention.

The group is supported by the city and some sponsors. Among the clearly marked vCOP vehicles are four mini-vans, four electric scooters and two electric bicycles. Volunteers, easily identified by the fluorescent yellow jackets and bright orange jersey uniforms, derive pleasure from giving back to the community. Their commitment entails six hours (minimum) a month.

“Residents take time to stop us and say thanks,” Herf points out. One Rosh Hashanah, Herf was parked by a synagogue and people stopped by the vCOP vehicle to compliment the unit’s presence because it made them feel safe. On other occasions, motorists spotting a vCOP put down their car window to signal a ‘thumbs up’.

Herf has also been on duty, when residents are sound asleep. “People sometimes fail to close their garage doors.  I rang a front door bell at 2 a.m. because the garage door was wide open. The home owner was grateful.”

Although vCOP is on duty for Jewish festivals, parades, Canada Day, Halloween, Winter Carnival and other happy events, members also are called out to fires, floods, and road closure emergencies.

Recruitment and training of volunteers takes place twice a year. For information, contact vcop@cotesaintluc.org.