- Kristina Webb Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Want to be a member of an elite squad tasked with patrolling our neighborhoods and keeping Wellington safe?
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Citizen Observer Patrol is looking for recruits. And for a commitment of four hours a week, you could be part of this trailblazing group.
Wellington’s C.O.P. unit was the first in the county — that’s why it’s Unit 1 — and is comprised of people from all walks of life, PBSO deputy Scott Poritz told Wellington’s Public Safety Committee last week.
“It truly is a benefit to the residents of Wellington,” Poritz said, adding with a laugh, “especially for what they get paid.”
Yes, these are volunteer positions. But the pay-off comes in holding people accountable and helping your neighbors, said Unit 1 Commander Barry Lieberman.
C.O.P. volunteers are trained to handle a variety of situations, everything from changing a tire and the proper way to block a lane of traffic for a disabled car, to knowing what to look for to spot a person in distress.
Lieberman recalled a time a few years ago when he and his partner came across a woman sitting in her car “looking bewildered” in the Best Buy parking lot on State Road 7. They stopped to ask if she was OK. “Just by talking to her, we knew that she did have a problem,” he said.
Lieberman called 911 and the responding deputies found that the woman had Alzheimer’s and was missing. “She was being looked for for two or three days before we even found her,” he said.
The volunteers in Wellington have two primary tasks, Poritz said: parking enforcement and traffic monitoring. Part of their training includes a certification to write parking citations — including tickets for people who improperly park in handicap spots.
Unit 1 wrote 320 tickets between May 1, 2015, and April 30 of last year, Poritz said. “That’s a lot of citations,” he added.
But the job is not complete once the ticket is written, Poritz said. They have to take photos, write a narrative and submit all information with the citation.
C.O.P. volunteers also assist with traffic monitoring in Wellington. Have you seen one of the “speed trailers” along a road, with an electronic sign that tells you your speed? Chances are that was put there by a member of Unit 1, Poritz said.
“What it comes down to is this truly is part of the PBSO family,” he told the committee. “They’re an extension for us.”
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and will have to pass a background check. For more information, call 561-433-2003 or email email@example.com.