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West Haven ramping up volunteer police program

West Haven is growing fast, but does not have its own police force. Could volunteers be the answer? Photo: Getty Images

WEST HAVEN, Utah  —  Despite a population growth that tops most other Weber County cities, West Haven currently does not have its own police force.  So city officials are partnering with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office in a program called Volunteers in Police Service, or VIPS.

One current volunteer, West Haven City Council member Rob Vanderwood tells the Standard-Examiner that to those would-be thieves who believe West Haven residents would be an easy target to think again.

“To those that think (West Haven) is an easy target for theft – we will be watching out for any and all suspicious activity in the city.  We have a police radio and we’re not afraid to use it,” says Vanderwood.

Despite some success with the volunteer program, there are some who believe the fast-growing city of West Haven needs its own police department.  Mayor Sharon Bolos is impressed with coverage already provided by Weber County sheriff’s deputies, and fully expects the subject of creating a police force to come up again this spring during the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget talks.

In 2019, the estimated cost of forming a 12-member police force was $2.3 million, more than double what the city will have to fork over to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office for the fiscal year 2019-2020 coverage, according to Bolos.

The VIPS program began last year, complete with unarmed volunteers who help patrol streets of West Haven, Huntsville, Marriott-Slaterville and other cities under the jurisdiction of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.  The program now has its own marked vehicle.  Volunteers who use the vehicle often watch for suspicious activity and check on construction sites and open garage doors, which can attract thieves.

Volunteers also help with things like traffic control during an accident or a busy event, freeing up sheriff’s deputies to work on other cases.