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Citizens on Patrol looking for new volunteers

Members of Picayune Police Department’s Citizens on Patrol are looking for new recruits, and age is no limitation, as 92-year-old volunteer Bernard Provenzano demonstrates.

The volunteer organization focuses on assisting the Picayune Police Department at community events like parades and sporting events, said coordinator Norman Fenstermacher.

At every parade, some of the volunteers arrive two or three hours early to help prepare for the parade and they are the last car in the parade to help make sure everyone is safe.

The organization also helps volunteers understand the ins and outs of how the Picayune Police Department operates, said Fenstermacher. There are Citizens on Patrol groups in over 13 states, with the Picayune group being established in 2005.

Sometimes group members also go out at night and report anything suspicious they see to the police department, said Fenstermacher. The group tries to provide another set of eyes for the police department at no cost to the taxpayers, Fenstermacher said.

“I like being able to keep my eyes and ears open to help law enforcement do what they need to do,” said Provenzano. “There’s a lot that goes on in this town that people don’t realize.”

When group members see something suspicious or concerning, they notify the authorities, said Provenzano, like when he saw that an area store had forgotten to bring their merchandise inside off the sidewalk after closing and notified the Sheriff’s Department.

Volunteers go through an application process and training program, which includes a background check, riding along with a police officer, spending a day in dispatch, learning about the jail and spending time in a courtroom, Fenstermacher said.

“It’s got to come from the heart. We’ve got to let people know that we’re out there watching for them,” said Provenzano. “Those that can’t do it, can’t do it, but those that can should certainly try.”

Group members use the Citizens on Patrol car and are issued police ID cards and Citizens on Patrol badges.