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Omaha Coalition of City Patrols volunteers to keep city safe

Posted at 7:31 AM, Nov 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-24 16:41:39-05

These volunteers' vests aren't bulletproof, they don't carry handcuffs and the vehicle of choice is a pick-up truck, not a squad car. While Garry Gernandt and Carol Prokop both have years of law enforcement, these two aren't officers, they're ordinary citizens. 

"You look for doors that may be ajar, windows that may be open that shouldn't be, people loitering around entrances or the exits," Gernandt said. 

Gernandt, a former city councilman and police Sergeant, has been an OCCP patroller for more than 20 years, trained to observe and report anything suspicious. 

And while not everyone has the public service background of Gernandt, they're not trained by people who don't know what they are doing. OCCP patrollers are trained by OPD officers at the Omaha Police Northwest Precinct. 

In the last month, there have been at least 284 cases of car theft, break-ins, robberies and other non-violent crimes. It is what's motivating new recruits to sign up. 

"We weren't home at the time, front was broken into and a couple of little things were taken, not a whole lot, but since then we've been real careful." OCCP patroller Patrick Joseph said, "watching what's going on in the neighborhood and keeping track of vehicles and watching other people."

Patrollers are not paid for their time, but they log hours to show their presence in the community, averaging about 10 calls reporting suspicious activity to police a month. 

The hope? That the more than 500 active patrollers in 36 neighborhoods will reduce crime.