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Bluffdale • When Saratoga Springs police officers agreed to patrol Bluffdale, Police Chief Gary Hicken committed to creating a program to allow residents to help.

In late August, just after the department marked its first year in Bluffdale, Hicken presented the first seven members of the city's Citizens Assisting Police program to the City Council.

Hicken says not only will the volunteers — whose numbers he anticipates will grow with time — save the city money, they also may save lives by ensuring that neighborhood patrols are done by trained volunteers.

"The tragedy that happened when people try to do this with untrained individuals won't happen again," Hicken said, referring to a clash between two self-appointed neighborhood safety advocates in 2009.

Reginald Campos shot David Serbeck, believing that Serbeck had harassed his teenage daughter. Campos was convicted of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault; Serbeck was paralyzed.

Hicken said the Citizens Assisting Police volunteers are unarmed, wear uniforms, patrol in a marked car and are trained to call police if they see something — rather than intervening on their own.

But the volunteers do more than look for crime. They also provide crowd control, assist with crime-scene investigations and use radar to clock speeders — although they cannot issue traffic tickets.

It's a program Hicken has run in Saratoga Springs, as well as in Buena Park, Calif., where he was previously police chief.

The volunteers are graduates of the Citizens Academy that Hicken and his officers conduct on a yearly basis. There, students learn about police work — from investigating a crime scene to driving patrol cars to shooting pistols and shotguns.

Graduates then have the chance to join the volunteer program, once they pass a background check.

Hicken said volunteers range from retirees who want to stay active to civic-minded folks with some free time and those who are interested in police careers.

Bluffdale Mayor Derk Timothy and council members noted the presence of the volunteers at recent city events and commended them for their service.

Hicken said volunteers in Saratoga Springs, where volunteers have helped with commercial vehicle inspections and courtroom security, saved the city $106,630 in one year.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love praised the program for making her city safer by freeing up more officers for patrol work.

But the program boasts another benefit besides savings. It brings together the community and the police.

"It's [the public's] connection to the Police Department," Love said.

Twitter: @donaldwmeyers