Grapevine VIPS (Volunteers In Police Service) recently surpassed 100,000 volunteer hours, a total that translates into more than $2 1/2 million worth of service.
Linda Robbins, director of Grapevine VIPS, said the hours were logged between June 2006 and Dec. 2014. The total through year end was 100,378 hours.
“The national VIPS organization values our time at $25.11 per hour, for a total value of $2,520,491.58,” Robbins said.
In 2014, the total was 15,608 hours, or an average of 1,300 hours per month.
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Sixty-five active VIPS are on the current roster.
Requirements are stringent to be a volunteer.
VIPS must live or work in Grapevine, complete the 14-week Citizens Police Academy (offered twice a year), be over 21 years of age, be in overall good health, have a valid driver’s license, have no criminal record, pass a background investigation and commit to donate hours every month.
In 2006, the VIPS started with 19 volunteers; 10 of the original 19 are still volunteering. Ten VIPS have contributed 3,000 to 5,000 hours since joining the VIPS.
“Many of the VIPS are retired, while others work either full or part time,” Robbins said. “The ages of our VIPS range from 20s to 80s. The majority are in their 60s or 70s.”
Robbins said there are two levels of VIPS. All VIPS receive training for every task that they perform.
VIPS 2 are entry level and primarily work inside of the police department building other than foot patrol.
VIPS 1 are more experienced receive more training. VIPS 1 are trained to drive the volunteer patrol vehicles and perform other duties outside of the building.
VIPS can perform a myriad of tasks for the police department. Most noticeable to the public is patrolling in the volunteer patrol vehicles or foot patrol.
They also perform a long list if tasks that includes working in every section of the department.
Other tasks are scanning documents, assisting at animal services, assisting with new employee testing, manning the Information Desk and SkyWatch towers and data entry.
Some tasks while on patrol are patrolling business parking lots and neighborhoods, performing motorist and citizens assists; picking up meals for jail prisoners, running errands and performing vacation checks.
“Our objective is to assist the Police Department by being additional eyes and ears for them and also performing tasks that do not require the skills and training that our officers possess,” Robbins said.
She said VIPS are not police officers and do not carry weapons or make arrests.
“Rather, we alert the police to offenses that we observe,” she said.
In addition to a police sergeant who is program coordinator, the department has VIPS leaders: director, assistant director, internal services supervisor, external service supervisor, administrative manager, foot patrol coordinator and SkyWatch coordinator.
In 2012, the Grapevine VIPS program won the International Chiefs of Police Excellence in Policing Award for Volunteer Programs.
Sgt. Jason Keller, a police officer who oversees the program, lauded their accomplishments.
“Our VIPS program has performed countless hours in a variety of routine, non-enforcement activities which have become an integral part of the police department,” the officer said. “Their efforts are extremely irreplaceable because budgets can't buy the level of dedication and service they provide.”
One of their longtime volunteers, Colin Cresswell, loves helping out at the Grapevine Animal Shelter —helping with adoptions, reuniting lost pets with their owners and comforting shelter animals.
“I love animals,” said Cresswell, 80, a native of England who came to Grapevine in 1986. “I always have.”
Cresswell, a former member of the Queen’s Guard, said he has always found time to volunteer, but this has been his most rewarding experience.
“You get truly involved with the animals in every aspect,” Cresswell asid. “When you’re around so many animals so pitiful looking sometimes, you don’t want to leave them. You want to comfort them. They seem so happy when you hold them.”
Cresswell, an animal lover, was thrilled when he was assigned to the shelter. The unglamorous job at the shelter had a shortage of staff. They told him he could work the desk and not be responsible for the dirtier jobs. But he soon found desk duty “very boring” and asked to work every aspect, including cleanup.
But his greatest reward is when he reunites a pet with its owner.”
“The work is sweaty and dirty — that’s part of it,” he added. “But I love to see adoptions go through. I like happy endings.”
When on desk duty, Cresswell pays a lot of attention to each call, such as lost and found, knowing it’s an opportunity to give the caller “a little hope” and doing everything he can to make that person satisfied.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “I’m always happy.”
Cresswell is a popular addition to the staff, always willing to sub for others during holidays and when emergencies arise.
“I don’t only do it for the dogs, I do it for the families,” the octogenarian said.
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367