A group of real VIPs

LYNNWOOD – Jerry Parker and Joe Lebb have never come face-to-face with a burglar while making their rounds in Lynnwood.

They do occasionally come across things that make them shake their heads.

“Any bodies?” Parker asked his partner.

“Nope, but they left a portable radio outside. Maybe they wanted the animals to have some music,” Lebb said, returning from a quick inspection of a home.

Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald

Jerry Parker, 75 (left), and Joe Lebb, 80, check on homes while people are on vacation as part of the Lynnwood Police Department’s Volunteers in Public Safety program.

The men tick through a list of thief-friendly mistakes homeowners have made before leaving town. A resident left a window open so the family pet could come inside to eat. Another homeowner left all the windows open on a second floor “for ventilation” while out of town.

“Sometimes people don’t think,” Lebb said.

About once a week, Parker, 75, and Lebb, 80, pull on their uniforms and cruise around Lynnwood in a police car, minus the lights and sirens.

The men check houses to make sure no one has broken in or anything else suspicious is afoot while the owners are on vacation. It is a free service offered by the Lynnwood Police Department.

Parker and Lebb are part of Volunteers in Public Safety. The police department uses the volunteers, primarily retired men and women, to help with crime prevention and a stack of other work.

“It’s a fun job. There are nice people, and few old crabs,” Lebb said.

Lebb said he started volunteering with the department about a decade ago. He was fed up with seeing people park illegally in spaces designated for disabled drivers.

Along with checking vacant houses, the volunteers monitor restricted parking spaces and school zones. They drive through city parks and shopping center parking lots.

The Lynnwood Police Department needs people for its Volunteers in Public Safety program. Volunteers, typically retired, must be available about 12 hours a month to help the police department, including crime prevention programs.

For more information, call program coordinator Shannon Sessions at 425-744-6938.

“They are extra eyes and ears for the police department,” volunteer coordinator Shannon Sessions said.

If there is trouble, the volunteers are trained to back away. A while ago, a pair of volunteers stumbled upon a burglar while checking a house. They called for police, who swarmed the house and nabbed the suspect, Sessions said.

“We don’t put them in danger, but it is a step above volunteering at the library,” she said.

The volunteers also assist with administrative jobs, such as delivering and sorting interoffice mail and notifying crime victims about the status of their cases.

Last year, about 25 of these volunteers, along with another volunteer group, the Citizen’s Patrol, gave almost 24,000 hours to the police department.

“That’s equivalent to about 11 full-time employees. We really need them and believe they are making a huge difference in the city,” Sessions said.

Parker said he needed something to do with his time after his wife died. Lebb, whom he knows through the Lynnwood Elks Lodge, encouraged him to volunteer with the police department.

“It’s nice when you go by the schools and the kids line up and wave at you and smile,” Parker said.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

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