With the mugs of Moorpark's most wanted staring down at them from a wall, about 20 volunteers for the city's new downtown police storefront fumbled with fingerprinting kits in one of their last training sessions before the station opens Saturday.
The volunteers gathered in the basement of the East Valley Sheriff's Station for their training, which was conducted by Senior Deputy Ed Tumbleson.
The group, which included retirees, students, an insurance agent, janitor, businessman and school bus driver, shared the common desire to keep Moorpark--which has the lowest crime rate in the county--safe.
"I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I think the crime problem blossomed there because people didn't get involved," said Catherine Lousen, 38, a real estate appraiser.
Lousen said she became involved because she wanted to do volunteer work and because she had an interest in helping local law enforcement.
"I'm usually one of the first ones to call the police when something is going on," she said. "I usually know when something's wrong. I have a sixth sense about crime."
The volunteers will do very little, if any, crime-stopping. In their new uniforms--a white polo shirt with the city seal embroidered on, highlighted with "Moorpark Police Department, Resource Center Volunteer"--the volunteers will mostly be answering questions from residents and passing out information on crime prevention. They will also provide such services as child fingerprinting and engraving identification on bicycles and other personal items to prevent theft.
The volunteers' most important task, said Lt. Martin Rouse, who heads the Sheriff's Department's Moorpark Enforcement Division, is to make contact with the community downtown.
"Being downtown, you with your white shirts are going to do more to make our presence known than any pamphlets or flyers," he said.
The volunteers will help improve the department's image with the largely Latino community in the downtown area, he said.
"It will be a positive influence in the community," said Jonas Casas, a burly volunteer who works nights as a custodian for the Moorpark Unified School District.
Casas said he was interested in law enforcement and excited about volunteering.
"I've spent all my 26 years in Moorpark and I figured it was time to give something back," he said.
Casas is also taking classes in the administration of justice at Moorpark College and considering a career in law enforcement.
The small station where Casas and the other volunteers will work consists of a desk, a few chairs, a computer and telephone in the front portion of a formerly abandoned bank building that the city owns on the corner of Moorpark Avenue and High Street. The rest of the building will be used by Charles Abbott & Associates, an engineering firm under contract to the city to conduct building and safety inspections.
The station will be open from noon until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers will rotate four-hour shifts through the week. Deputies on patrol will use the office to type up and file crime reports and occasionally interview suspects and witnesses, Rouse said.
He said he hoped that the hours could be increased as more people come forward to volunteer.
Opening ceremonies at the new station will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday after the Moorpark Country Days parade.