Extra 'Eyes and Ears' Equal Busts : Crime: Volunteer patrol at mall assists police in 7 arrests in one week.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A volunteer patrol of senior citizens and others trained to spot suspicious activity has helped police arrest seven suspects in the past week at the Huntington Beach Mall, police said.

The new program, in which a squad of 60 civilians acts as the "eyes and ears" of the Police Department, has been a resounding success as the mall copes with the last-minute holiday rush, Police Lt. Chuck Thomas said.

Elderly residents on the team were instrumental, for example, in the arrest of four women Wednesday suspected of credit-card forgery at Mervyn's, Thomas said.

"What we do is we position them strategically around the mall in order to observe and report any suspicious activity. It could be any kind of suspicious activity, people loitering around cars, people going in and out of stores over and over."

The volunteers then quietly inform police of their observations, and the officers make the arrests.

The squad members, who began their beat last Saturday, do not carry guns and do not approach the suspects.

One of the advantages to the program, Thomas said, is that the patrol members do not attract suspicion themselves.

In the holiday crowds, he said, "They fit in pretty well."

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