Cook Co. forest cops looking for citizen help
Thursday, August 21, 2008
by Rob Olmstead
The Cook County Forest Preserve Police are looking for a few good men and women.
"Like any police department, we need the citizens' help," said Forest Preserve Police Chief Richard Waszak.
"We don't have (a) high incidence of crime in our forest preserves," he said. But when users of the trails venture further into remote areas of the preserves and find themselves alone, the perception of safety often becomes a concern, Waszak said.
To raise the visibility of an official presence and put more "eyes and ears" out on the trails for police, the department is starting a "Trail Watch" program, it announced Thursday.
Involvement can be as simple as volunteers using the trails as they normally do and phoning into police on their own cell phones if they see something suspicious, or even something as benign as a downed tree limb or excessive garbage on a trail, organizers said.
Or, if volunteers can commit to being in the preserves for a minimum of two scheduled hours a month, they will receive CPR and safety training as well as green "Trail Watch" vests and a direct-connect cell phone when they patrol, linking them to police supervisors.
What police don't want, Waszak said, is any would-be Dirty Harry's or heroes. In fact, when Trail Watch volunteers see something, they're instructed NOT to confront any would-be hoodlums.
"We don't want vigilante-type people and we don't want anybody getting hurt. We want eyes and ears," said Waszak. To help keep things safe, volunteers must undergo a background check before beginning scheduled outings.
To sign up for the program, volunteers can download an application at www.fpdcc.com and either fax it to Waszak at (708) 771-1005, or e-mail it to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.