Bruce Pla and Dan Rosenthal were patrolling Temple Terrace for the first time Aug. 22 when they assisted a disabled motorist, called police to help a man whose car had been vandalized, and checked on the homes of residents who were on vacation.
It’s all in a day’s volunteerism for Pla and Rosenthal, two of the four founding members of the Temple Terrace Police Department’s Citizen Volunteer Patrol Program. Temple Terrace Police Chief Ken Albano described the program as “a unique partnership between members of the police department and residents of our community.”
The volunteers will act as additional “eyes and ears” of the police department, Albano said.
“This allows the police to do the actual enforcement, and we just do the looking and listening,” Rosenthal explained.
“We’re out there in the streets now,” Pla added. “We’re going to be visible and a good public relations arm for the citizens.”
How They'll Help
They’ll assist police by patrolling neighborhoods and commercial areas; assisting officers with public safety and traffic control; responding to non-emergency calls; providing basic first aid; and reporting suspicious activities.
“The important thing is we want to make sure the job and the effort that we do is something we would want someone doing for us,” Pla said.
The department is looking for eight additional volunteers.
How it All Got Started
Albano began talking about the Citizen Volunteer Patrol Program a year ago. He told the Temple Terrace City Council the program was “crime prevention on wheels,” as it increases the police department’s crime prevention presence.
“A greater presence equates to fewer opportunities for criminal activity,” he said before the council in August 2011. “Also, when volunteers can respond to lower priority calls, it allows more time for our officers to respond to high-priority enforcement issues and investigation-related calls.”
It took the department 12 months to find volunteers that met the city’s standards. Volunteers must be United States Citizens, age 19 or older, and be available to take training, attend monthly meetings and volunteer for 18 hours a month. Volunteers also had to pass extensive background checks.
“We take very seriously the background process that we go through,” Albano said, adding that some applicants were turned away after their backgrounds were checked.
The volunteers underwent 40 hours of specialized training in such areas as CPR/first aid, infectious diseases, patrol techniques, radio communications, crossing guard protocol and traffic control.
How it Works
The department will analyze crime trends to put the volunteers in areas of the city where there have been problems.
Under the supervision of Temple Terrace Senior Police Officer Karen Walter, volunteers will always work in pairs—one person will be the primary driver while the other watches for suspicious activity or emergencies. They’ll drive specially marked Citizen Patrol cars, which are refurbished patrol cars with amber lights. Currently, one car is in use; a second car will be available once more volunteers are added.
Volunteers will also wear identifiable uniforms consisting of khaki shirts, blue pants and khaki hats.
The program is paid for by money recovered from illegal drug sales under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said City Councilwoman Mary Jane Neale of the program. She happened to be at City Hall Wednesday as volunteers were preparing to patrol for the second time. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our citizens to be involved.”
In addition to Pla and Rosenthal, Autumn Balthazor and Pedro Miranda are also volunteering with the program. Balthazor is a middle school teacher, and Miranda is a senior analyst for a health-care revenue cycle management company. They’ll volunteer mostly on weekends.
Pla and Rosenthal are expected to volunteer on Wednesdays. They’ll each split their 18 volunteer hours a month into three 6-hour shifts.
Why They Volunteer
Pla, 52, is the founder and director of the Center for Technology Training. He’s lived in Temple Terrace for 15 years.
Pla has always had an interest in law enforcement, but he said his life’s direction took him elsewhere. The Citizen Volunteer Patrol Program seemed like a good opportunity for him.
“Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush called everyone to volunteerism, I’ve made an effort to start volunteering,” Pla said.
He also volunteers with his church, Corpus Christi Catholic Church, and is a member of its Knights of Columbus 7644.
Rosenthal, 61, is retired from the wireless communications business and is also a volunteer diver at the Florida Aquarium. He’s lived in Temple Terrace for about 20 years.
“I wanted to stay busy, and it looked like it would be interesting and fun,” Rosenthal said of the program.
“It’s good to do something for your community,” he added. “I hear retired people complaining about having nothing to do. Volunteering keeps your mind active.”
For more information about the Citizen Volunteer Patrol Program or to apply, call the police department’s Crime Prevention Unit at 813-506-6500.