Tuesday, September 2, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

For the love of it: Davis volunteers add sparkle

0216 VIPS SoltaniFirmanW

VIPS Cyrus Soltani and Arek Firman are part of the city's program to utilize volunteers to help perform tasks needed by the police department, among others. Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | February 16, 2014 |

That woman who works the archives for the Police Department. Those people mulching at the park. That guy in the yellow hat and shirt doing traffic control downtown on Picnic Day.

They’re not getting paid.

And neither is “George,” as we’ll call him, because we don’t want everyone to know who he is. George logged more than 600 hours last year covering up graffiti, some of it gang-related.

These people are volunteers, whose motives for helping run the city range from wanting to see a nearby park shine to getting out of the house or staying active in their retirement years.

The city’s motives for outfitting them and giving them duties are clear. Budgets are tight, and in some cases volunteers do the work that used to be filled by a paid person. George actually learned from a paid graffiti hunter prior to the 2008 financial crisis; now the Police Department relies on him to get the graffiti cleaned up.

Besides the police and parks departments, public works and city administrative offices use volunteers to do everything from routine filing to coyote monitoring and mulching. But they all work under the label of VIPS: Volunteers In Police Service.

‘I do get a lot of smiles’
Some volunteers like downtown host John Arnold, 65, do it for the smiles. As a host, Arnold said the city equips him with a bright yellow hat, brochures, a yellow jacket and a yellow polo shirt and sends him downtown to direct out-of-towners and newcomers to local businesses and parking. Some questioners are completely lost.

“Just yesterday someone asked me where the freeway was,” he said.

It’s good exercise, he added, and he likes to be out and about with a fist full of brochures, ready to help. He found the gig by responding to an ad in The Enterprise. So far, he’s been out three times.

“Sometimes we’re in pairs and sometimes we’re by ourselves,” Arnold said. “People occasionally ask me what we’re doing, but I do get a lot of smiles.”

Smiles aren’t what keep Sandy Sokolow, 80, doing what she does. The former journalist and paralegal for the Sacramento Bee and Sacramento District Attorney’s Office, respectively, said 13 years ago she went to a retirement dinner for a police friend of hers, when someone got to talking about the needs at the Police Department for an archivist.

Sokolow was ready to be more active in her retirement, so she agreed to the job — logging and clipping articles about the department, usually from The Enterprise and the Sacramento Bee.

“We also clip stories about law enforcement,” she said. “We clip and keep them in notebooks.”

Sokolow pre-dated the VIPS program in Davis — other cities have their own VIPS — but Sokolow said she’s watched as the program has grown and the Police Department has benefited.

Kelly Vitaich, volunteer coordinator and police services specialist, said VIPS is more than a decade old at the Davis Police Department, logging 3,300 hours of service estimated to be more than $73,000 worth of labor if each of the 59 volunteers was paid a $22.14 wage. The 15-member police cadet program logged another 186 hours, an estimated $4,118 in wages.

The Parks Department has an adopt-a-park program that allows people to care for a park near their homes. So far the program is working with five groups and 18 individuals. The Public Works Department uses volunteers to give tours of the wetlands, monitor the coyote population near the city’s borders and clean up local ponds. There were 118 volunteers in 2013.

Elbow grease and dedication
And then there are volunteers like George who help make the city sparkle, literally.

He’s part of a special group of VIPS who are experts on tagging and work with members of the Police Department to identify and remove graffiti, often using caustic chemicals.

Vitaich and fellow Police Services Specialist Taylor Klisiewicz, who works with code enforcement, ran a volunteer recruitment and PowerPoint training session Thursday night with George that attracted 17 people who are interested in combating graffiti.

Klisiewicz and Vitaich went over the basic types of graffiti — local artsy tags, bored scribbling, gang wannabe, racist, sexist, offensive and gang — as well as the types of cleaning agents used for various surfaces, where elbow grease accompanies each one. The group also discussed well-known graffiti taggers.

“He’s growing as an artist,” Vitaich joked of one tagger.

Klisiewicz told prospective volunteers there were 1,219 instances of graffiti last year on 19,000 square feet of surfaces. All were cleaned at a cost of materials and labor of $67,764.

If the graffiti causes damage of $950 or less, it’s a misdemeanor. More, and it’s a felony.

VIPS don’t clean graffiti on surfaces owned by PG&E, Caltrans, Davis Waste Removal or AT&T. Log it and pass those by, Vitaich told the group.

After the presentation, George was approached by prospective volunteers asking about his experiences.

On sidewalks, which are porous, he said he often has to go back three times and clean on his hands and knees to get graffiti out. Other times, it’s best to paint over it, it’s so bad.

He works downtown a lot, but because he got sick over Christmas with that bug that was going around, graffiti taggers have had a field day, he said. George said while he may not be fast in getting to it, he can keep up.

“What I like is when they leave you little notes, like (one local tagger), who tagged, ‘Blessed are the people who clean up after taggers.’ ”

To get involved, go to http://police.cityofdavis.org/city-of-davis-volunteer-program/how-to-get-started

— Reach Dave Ryan at dryan@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Comments

comments

.

News

Planning begins for Davis Neighbors’ Night Out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
Davis is not immune: Are you ready for a big quake?

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
6 militants killed in U.S. strike in Somalia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
San Francisco is first to test urban farming law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Sword-attack suspect awaiting trial in Davis

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Tickets still available for DHS Hall of Fame dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Cuddle up at Project Linus’ meeting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Public opinion sought about Nishi Gateway

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A3

 
International folk dancing offered Sundays

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Rose garden bricks to be dedicated Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

It’s About Time plays Davis Farmers Market’s Picnic in the Park

By Anthony Siino | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Learn about RNA at Science Café

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Google Glass will be discussed, demonstrated

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Register year-round at Davis Chinese School

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
.

Forum

Tesla has state walking a tightrope

By Tom Elias | From Page: A4

 
Special-needs passengers ignored

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

A cure for Davis’ problems

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

 
A good use for the MRAP

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A4

 
Have the facts before you judge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Marriage vs. male instinct

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
.

Sports

Fruits of their Labor Day

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS boys looking to replicate a big cross country performance

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Life without MacDonald starts Friday for DHS

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Clark recalls his hole-in-one — the first at Davis Golf Course

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Aggies edge Quinnipiac in overtime

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

Baseball roundup: Aces end River Cats’ season

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B3

 
Sports briefs: Hot Shots basketball tryouts coming up

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

Junior Blue Devils strong in home debut, winning 3 on the field

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Elaine Dracia Greenberg

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7