The American Fork Police Department has some fresh volunteers as part of its new Volunteers in Police Service program.

The program, dubbed VIPS in American Fork, is similar to other police department volunteer programs around the county. The American Fork VIPS work with uniformed police and are trained to do traffic control at accidents and community events, assist motorists, take animal calls, perform as crossing guards, monitor the department’s traffic trailer, do fingerprinting and in-office paperwork. The five newly-installed volunteers are required to work at least four hours each month. Most are already putting in double that.

“When we had the change in police chiefs, our new chief felt strongly about this to help our department and community,” said American Fork Police Sgt. Adam Stowers. “We’re a city department on a limited budget, and this helps with our manpower. It also helps us build trust with the community.”

Eric Freitas, 20, is a VIPS. He is studying criminal justice at college and wants to eventually become a police officer.

“This gives me a lot of insight into the work,” he said of the volunteer program.

Dustin Manis, 28, also hopes to become a police officer. He’s already been through the police academy and hopes this service will give him some experience and get his foot in the door to a local department.

“Being a police officer is something I wanted to do my entire life. To be that guy that helps someone in their time of need,” Manis said.

Not all of American Fork’s VIPS are planning to be police officers, though. Stowers said two already have full-time jobs and one is a stay-at-home mother who just loves being involved in the community. Because the volunteers don’t tackle dangerous situations, almost anyone can participate, as long as they make it through the application process.

Stowers said as the program progresses this year, the Police Department will evaluate its effectiveness, and could add more volunteer positions.

“I hope to grow the program, but we want to get a baseline set up first,” Stowers said. “There’s stuff we can have them do just about anytime they are on duty. We keep them very busy, and it helps free up officers so they can focus on the things they need to do. All our officers are enthusiastic about the program.”

Freitas and Manis and a few of the other VIPS were able get their feet wet in the work this week, serving at Cedar Hills’ Night Out Against Crime on Friday as part of the Family Festival, and directing traffic for the Family Festival parade Saturday.

Karissa Neely reports on Business and North County events, and can be reached at 801-344-2537 or kneely@heraldextra.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DHKarissaNeely

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