Eyes and ears attuned to crime

“Crime prevention is our prime objective,” said Dale Neuendorf, Director of Chelsea’s Citizen Observer Patrol (COP).

How does a group of volunteers accomplish this goal without being armed or engaging directly in law enforcement?

“We provide eyes and ears for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department,” Neuendorf said. “We observe and report anything suspicious, or any incident we find, to Sheriff’s dispatch.”

“Chelsea has four contract deputies with the Sheriff’s Department who are on duty in Chelsea around the clock,” Robert Burnett, COP Assistant Director, added. “We stay in close contact with the deputies and work close with them.”

Neuendorf said the group has an excellent working relationship with Sheriff Chris Curry and his department. They meet with Curry to hear his suggestions and discuss ways to make the program more effective.

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven and the City Council are also very supportive of the program, he said. They supply the uniforms, equipment, patrol cars, fuel and maintenance.

“Councilman Ricky King, a member of the COP General Management Committee, has oversight responsibility for the COP program and is always willing to help us,” Neuendorf said.

According to Neuendorf, COP volunteers go through intensive training before receiving certification and patrolling. They patrol neighborhoods and commercial areas within the city limits of Chelsea in automobiles bearing the COP insignia and a green emergency light. The COP presently has two patrol cars, which patrol at night and during the day. Volunteers always patrol with a partner.

These volunteers also serve at special events such as school festivals, ball games and city events. “And COP Chaplain Henry Gass is available to assist with any situation where someone might need help in a traumatic event such as an auto accident,” Neuendorf said.

COP meets once a month. They hold an annual pancake appreciation breakfast for public service workers and an annual awards dinner.

Mavis Efferson was named this year’s “Volunteer of the Year.” Martha Coffee and John McMunn were named “Rookie Volunteers of the Year.” Bill Weldon, an original COP member, holds the record for most volunteer hours with 4,500 hours.

“We are always looking for additional good members,” Neuendorf said.

Anyone interested in joining the program, obtaining more information or arranging a neighborhood presentation may contact Dale Neuendorf at 678-3050 or daleneu@bellsouth.net. Contact Robert Burnett at 281-4082 or Thelumberman2003@yahoo.com.

Shelba Nivens can be reached by e-mail at ssnivens@bellsouth.net.