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By Maureen McMullen, Published March 02 2014

Lending a hand: Police volunteer with parking patrol eases officers’ workload

MOORHEAD – Since 1999, the Moorhead Police Department’s volunteer program has enlisted volunteers to help with services such as parking enforcement, assisting with family safety events, clerical work and home security checks for people on vacation.

Russ Hanson, who’s helped with parking enforcement since 2012, is one of 20 police volunteers for the city of Moorhead.

Though his role isn’t always popular among the people to whom he issues tickets, Hanson says he enjoys giving back to the community.

What are your responsibilities as a volunteer for the police?

I do what we call ticket patrol in south Moorhead. I look for vehicles that are parked where they’re not supposed to be parked. If I see something, for instance, if I go through the parking lot at Sunmart and I see a car parked in a fire lane with nobody in it, I can give them a ticket. Same with handicapped parking spots with vehicles that don’t have handicapped plates or stickers.

In the summer time, people who park their vehicles on the lawn or park across sidewalks. We’re able to take care of the parking problem so (police officers) can devote time to more pressing problems.

Not everyone appreciates your role as a parking patroller. Do you ever get any flak from people you’ve ticketed?

A lot of people aren’t interested in patrolling for parking. Maybe part of the reason is that they’re nervous or self-conscious and the thought of writing a ticket and having maybe someone come out and yell at you doesn’t tend to agree with them. I’ve only had that happen about twice. People will complain and whatever, but I tell them, ‘I didn’t create the laws. All we’re doing is enforcing them.’ And if they have a problem, they need to call the police department and they can take it from there.

Do you ever get positive feedback?

You bet. Some of them will wave. In the summertime, if I give out a ticket, some of the neighbors will come out and visit. They’ll say, ‘there’s one down there, too, there’s someone who’s always parking in the wrong place.’ I get a lot of good feedback from the people who pick up the garbage and clean the streets or whatever, because what we’re trying to do is move the traffic so they can get in there and do their job.

Making sure people follow parking rules could get stressful. What keeps you volunteering?

I look at it as sort of a giving back kind of thing. My wife and I have lived in Moorhead for 30 years, and we appreciate everything that goes on. I have the time, and it was a way for me to help them out.

I like driving around and getting to know people. I kind of like the ability to drive around. We’re not only giving tickets, but we’re very visible. It’s another sign in the city that people are out there and concerned about things.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Maureen McMullen at (701) 235-7311

Volunteers needed

The Moorhead Police Department currently is looking to recruit about five more volunteers, age 18 and older.

For more information on becoming a police volunteer, log on to http://bit.ly/1mKOYwx or contact the Moorhead Police Department at (218) 299-5143.