Tempe volunteers are needed to help patrol the city’s parks by foot, in marked cars and maybe even on bicycle, boats and horseback.
The city is starting up a volunteer Park Ranger Reserve program to increase the number of people in uniforms who patrol Tempe’s 50-odd parks.
The volunteer rangers won’t have the power to arrest or cite people, but they will be trained to give parking tickets, spot criminal activity and to act as ambassadors to park visitors.
"It’s intended to help supplement our city in an area we need help in," said City Councilman Ben Arredondo, who pushed for the program. "It’s a commitment to make our neighborhoods safer, too."
Tempe’s paid rangers typically patrol the 10 parks that have the most criminal incidents, said police Sgt. Noah Johnson, who will coordinate the volunteer program.
"We concentrate on the ones that obviously have issues," he said. "What we’re hoping to do with the volunteer park ranger program is those volunteers can assist us with the parks that do not make the top 10 list."
If volunteers are willing to go through extra training, they might be assigned to help patrol Tempe Town Lake or other larger parks that put rangers on horseback.
Tempe’s 15 full-time, paid rangers patrol the lake, the city parks and provide security at City Hall and the library. They have some police training but are not required to attend the police academy and do not carry weapons.
The volunteer rangers must complete a background check, an interview and a polygraph test to ensure they can be trusted with a uniform and a marked city car. They will receive 40 hours of training and will wear the same uniforms as paid park rangers.
Their training will include tips on how to spot criminal activity that the average person wouldn’t recognize as trouble, police officer Jeff Lane said.
"Obviously you get the training so you know what to look for as opposed to a person that doesn’t really know what’s out of place and what’s not," he said. "We don’t want them to put hands on people but to give us intelligent information on what’s going on so we can respond accordingly."
The volunteer program will be taking applications in the coming weeks. For more information, call (480) 350-8780.