They made supper, put the kids to bed, then headed to the Blackfoot Police Department to fight crime.
It's not a typical Saturday night for most mothers, but Jewell Ferrell and Marsha Sichting say the late hours they put in as Citizens on Patrol make a difference.They want to make Blackfoot's streets safer. As volunteer patrollers, the two set out in their own cars, armed only with police radios and courtesy tickets, to keep track of late-night Blackfoot.
"We want to feel safer about our community," said Ferrell, as she made a second drive-by to make sure a home's front door was not ajar.
About 10 volunteers were out on patrol from 10 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. They worked seven sections of Blackfoot, and radioed information to dispatchers about suspicious activity and a few incorrectly parked cars.
Sichting spotted a Subaru parked halfway on a street curb; the team pulled over and a courtesy citation was issued. The car owner isn't in trouble, she said, but the citation is a gentle reminder from Citizens on Patrol to be more considerate of neighbors next time.
"If all we need to do is give out courtesy tickets, that's all the action I need," Sichting said as she and Ferrell drive down Airport Road's darkness.
Blackfoot is the third city in Idaho to start a Citizens on Patrol program, police Lt. Jeff Mosbrucker said. Chubbuck and Meridian both have volunteers who operate a program, and police say small crime in those areas has decreased significantly.
In Chubbuck, residential burglaries are down 75 percent, outdoor theft has dropped 65 percent and vandalism has been reduced by 60 percent, said Lee Nicholls, Chubbuck's Citizens on Patrol captain. She has kept a record of crime since the program started in 1992.
"We have a real quiet neighborhood now," she said. "They were having a lot of gang-related vandalism. (Citizens on Patrol) is having a major effect on crime."
Retired Utah law enforcement officer Marv Denning is Blackfoot's Citizens on Patrol captain. His background working for police departments in Moab and St. George in Utah and recent training at the Blackfoot Police Department were among the reasons he was elected by fellow volunteers to lead the program.
Blackfoot's program is modeled after the one in Chubbuck. Volunteers are required to complete 10 hours of training on identifying people, taking notes, observing, learning legal aspects of patrolling and communicating with police and dispatchers.
About 60 Blackfoot and Bingham County residents have expressed interest in the new program, and 24 have completed all Citizens on Patrol classes and training, Mosbrucker said.
Citizens on Patrol work in four-hour shifts, two to a car. They carry flashlights and a wide-beam light, a police radio and police logs, but they are not issued weapons.
The volunteers are not supposed to get out of their cars and approach people, Mosbrucker said. They should act only as observers and help officers to keep an eye on the community.
"If there is a police car on the scene, (Citizens on Patrol) are to remain out on patrol," he said. "If they do come to the scene, we ask them to stay at least one to two blocks from there and just be observers."
Blackfoot is using about $12,000 to start Citizens on Patrol, and the police department is writing a grant asking for a match to those funds. However, the program rests on a foundation of volunteers because gas and cars must be provided by the individuals who participate.
"The police department's extent is limited to the training," Mosbrucker said. "Seeing that they're volunteers, we let them schedule themselves. The best part about it is no one (in the community) knows when they'll be out."
Denning said volunteers' cars are marked with Citizens on Patrol magnets. Jackets have been ordered, and identification cards will be issued to volunteers. Denning worked with Mosbrucker to get supplies and equipment ready. He is responsible for scheduling patrols and leading the program under Mosbrucker's supervision.
People in Blackfoot should start seeing a lot of slow-moving cars passing through their neighborhoods in the coming months, Denning said, and volunteers want nothing in return but a lot of quiet nights.
"We just want (the neighborhood) to know we're looking."