The police force in northern Utah County now has 300 more eyes looking out for crime.
Alpine School District's 150 bus drivers were recently trained by law enforcement officers to recognize criminal behavior and to respond properly when witnessing a crime. The drivers now consider themselves crime watchdogs for north Utah County and call themselves "Alpine's Eyes."R.J. Hone, district director of driver training, said the program was initiated because of the number of crimes bus drivers were witnessing.
"We had drivers calling in things all the time and we never really knew how to respond or what agencies we should involve," Hone said.
Drivers now watch for signs of drug dealing, drug or alcohol consumption, reckless driving and burglaries. When drivers see suspicious behavior they radio the district's dispatcher, Kathy Swiss, who then refers the matter to the appropriate authority.
"The drivers are looking for anything that indicates criminal behavior," Hone said.
Hone said drivers are excited about being watchdogs for crime and believe they can have a significant impact on reducing criminal activity. For most drivers, participating in crime prevention is a real morale booster.
"From all of the response we've been getting, drivers are feeling pretty positive about this program and want to do more to keep this going," he said.
Gerald Nielsen, public information officer for the Orem Police Department, said normally five or six officers are on duty at a time and it is difficult for them to cover the entire city. Officers spend most of their time responding to calls and have little time left over for patrolling. Crime-prevention efforts by volunteer groups such as "Alpine Eyes" are helpful in reducing crime, he said.
"They can cover areas that we usually have a difficult time getting to," Nielsen said.
Nielsen said local police departments have benefited from similar programs in the past involving postal workers and utility workers. He said those involved in such programs should remember not to take action when suspecting a crime other than reporting it to the appropriate authority.
"The best thing they can do is get the information and pass it on," Nielsen said.
Hone said letters have been sent to other district employees and principals urging them to support the program. He said drivers likely will undergo more crime prevention training and McGruff labels will be placed on district buses.
"If we can get all of our people involved then we can put five times the number of people out there looking for crime than the county's entire police force," he said.
Hone said drivers have already reported several suspicious activities to authorities. One driver witnessed an attempted abduction of a young girl in Orem.