Carl Dysinger isn’t a police officer, but he does write parking tickets, watch over neighborhood streets and help hunt down missing persons.
The 53-year-old retiree and Gilbert resident is among 14 volunteers who help the Gilbert Police Department make up for having the lowest ratio of officers to residents in Arizona, said Gilbert police Lt. Joe Ruet.
Town officials said they hope to at least double department volunteers to help with community policing, freeing police officers to take calls that involve more high-risk situations or citations.
The program, similar to those in Chandler and Mesa, began in 2000 with eight volunteers. In the last year alone, the volunteer work saved the town $106,000 in salaries, said volunteer coordinator Lacey Cox.
The volunteers wear shorts and polo shirts indicating they’re community police volunteers. They carry tear gas but can contact officers if backup help is needed. They undergo the same background checks as police and must have 25 hours of training.
"It’s probably a good way to get things done without using tax money," said resident Bill Cary, who recently wrote to the town asking that the program be reviewed. He said he appreciates the work volunteers do, but that there could be more effort on ticketing people who illegally park in handicapped spots and school fire zones.
That increased enforcement would be possible with the additional help, Ruet said.
Dysinger works almost full-time day shifts attending to car-crash scenes, helping out motorists whose vehicles break down, directing traffic or cleaning up items that have fallen off trucks, among other duties.
"I like to be involved in city or town projects to help in any way I can," he said. "I meet a lot of really great people."
He recalled the time he helped an elderly foreign man find his way back home.
"His kids were so happy to see him," Dysinger said.
David Wormell, 45, volunteers nights since he still works full time as a state computer analyst. Finding lost children is what keeps him coming back, he said.
"I care about what goes on in Gilbert and my community," he said. "And I realize there’s a lot of need for extra law enforcement officers. I got involved so I could help the officers out, so they can be more useful."
For more information about police volunteers, call (480) 503-6500.