PIEDMONT -- With burglaries on the rise in town, new police volunteers are encouraged to step up and apply.

"A robust citizen volunteer program to supplement the Piedmont Police Department will enhance public safety," Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka said.

Fujioka earlier encouraged the formation of a citizen's Public Safety Committee to address these issues.

"I'd like to see quadruple the number of volunteers, which translates into many more eyes and ears alert to suspicious activity. That, combined with a flurry of neighborhood watches being organized, will increase the chances of preventing crime in our community and of apprehending those who commit crime," she added.

New police Chief Rikki Goede said the volunteer program needs a little time to reorganize due to depleted staffing within the department.

"We will need to appoint someone within the department to arrange the volunteers' schedules and oversee the program," Goede said.

But residents are welcome to apply now at the police department. Currently, there are volunteers in the property evidence room and a few other areas. Goede envisions volunteers serving several purposes to aid the department. They do vacation checks on homes, stop by to check on seniors who live alone, visit school campuses, walk the parks to check for vandals or other suspicious activity and act as an extra set of eyes and ears in the city.

"They don't replace the police, but make a great complement," Goede said.

The chief cited a successful program when she worked in San Diego that had 10 to 20 volunteers in the northeast division of the city that had a large senior population.

"Volunteers driving (around) neighborhoods discourage speeding and vandalism," she said.

She is working on outfitting an extra vehicle in their fleet that would be marked as a police volunteer car. All volunteers would be fingerprinted and undergo a background check. Volunteers would work a few hours a week, depending on their availability.

The department also has the YANA (You Are Not Alone) program in place. Seniors or others who are homebound can sign up to receive a daily checkup call from the police department. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or to participate in the YANA program is asked to call Piedmont police at 510-420-3010.

"We don't want people taking the law into their own hands. We have the police for that. But done right, a volunteer program can be very helpful in a community," Goede said.

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