The year was 1995. Crime was rising in the small town of McKinleyville and Sheriff Dennis Lewis, who had been elected the year prior, was operating a department in the midst of a budget crisis. As the budget shrunk, forced cuts were made, and the pressure for better public safety built, Sheriff Lewis began seeking creative ideas to both save money and provide the public with the services they needed. In December 1995, the Sheriff’s Citizen’s On Patrol (SCOP) program was born.
The concept was simple: recruit community volunteers to conduct uniformed patrols of the county in marked Sheriff vehicles. Not only would the volunteers serve as a visual crime deterrent but essentially, they would be the “eyes and ears” of the department. Also seeking innovative ways to do more for the county with less, the Board of Supervisors agreed with the concept, allocating over $11,000 in October 1995 to get the program up and running. Supplemented by community donations, the first SCOP Academy began that December with 14 volunteers. The SCOP members underwent a 40-hour training program over the course of 10 weeks and began the first patrols of the program in early spring of 1996 in McKinleyville.
25 years later, SCOP continues to thrive; now serving McKinleyville and Greater Eureka. While the volunteers may be new, the job remains the same: to reduce and prevent crime. SCOP volunteers conduct high visibility patrols, vacation house checks, traffic control, and more. Over the years, SCOP has also become a champion of community improvement, helping identify and lobby for projects such as safer crosswalks, better signage, and more. Their hard work for the McKinleyville community was recognized formally in 2017 when the program was chosen for the McKinleyville Community Services District (MCSD) Community Builder’s Award.
As the program looks toward the next 25 years, they are actively seeking more volunteers to help make a difference in our community. To learn more about how you can become a SCOP volunteer, visit: https://humboldtgov.org/2101/Sheriffs-Citizens-on-Patrol-SCOP.
**This article first published in the 2021 HCSO Annual Report. 2021 marked SCOP's 25th year in operation.**