Many longtime Fremont residents still refer to their sprawling city as a "small town," which may not be the best description for a place that 217,000 people call home.
But police in the Bay Area's fourth-largest city still offer residents a service that must bring a smile to the oldest of old-timers. It's called the Vacation Home Security Check Program, a service in which Fremont residents can request police to check on their home while they're out of town.
Fremont's neighbors -- Newark and Union City -- offer similar programs.
In Fremont, those interested can go to www.fremontpolice.org and fill out a request form at least 72 hours before they go on vacation, Fremont police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said. The form gives police pertinent information, such as the residents' vacation dates and descriptions of their vehicles so that authorities have a blueprint of what they should expect to find outside the residence. The form also asks for the names and visitation dates of gardeners, house cleaners and family members who may be at the house so that police will not mistake them for a burglar.
The program is made possible by Fremont's C.A.R.E. Volunteers program, whose 80 members check on the homes. The volunteers, who are never armed, always work in pairs while driving in a marked volunteer police vehicle, Bosques said. "If they see anything suspicious, they are asked to contact a patrol
The program is offered throughout the year, but vacations taken during the holidays and summer months usually cause an uptick in requests. "We had 20 come in this week," Bosques said.
Newark police offer a similar program, for which residents can submit request forms by visiting www.newark.org and searching under "Vacation Home Check."
Volunteers in Newark's R.A.V.E.N. program assist officers in checking the residences.
"It's just a visual check of the property; we're not there to pick up newspapers," said Tim Jones, special assistant in the Newark Police Department's Community Engagement Division. "But if we drive by, and the front door or garage door is open, then we know we probably have a problem."
Fremont and Newark residents who prefer to submit a request form in person can do so at the police department during regular business hours.
In Union City, residents are required to fill out and submit a "Vacant Home Report" form in person at the police department's front desk at 34009 Alvarado-Niles Road, said Cmdr. Ben Horner. Budget cuts and patrol staffing shortages have forced Union City police to make home checks a lower priority, but officers still perform them when time permits, Horner said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.