Sheriff's volunteers make the grade

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

Jo Maxwell reads aloud the address of a west side home she and her husband Marvin are tasked with checking on while the owner is away. Marvin finds the house and the two step out of their marked VIP unit and walk around the property checking windows and doors. Back in the vehicle, Jo calls in to Carson City dispatch that they are back in service. The ritual is repeated weekly.

Since 2004, the Maxwells have been patrolling Carson City streets as members of the Carson City Sheriff's Office's Volunteers in Policing. They are the longest serving members since the unit's inception in 2002 and their dedication was recognized last year when they were named Volunteers of the Year.

Marvin, retired from General Telephone and Jo, retired from J.C. Penney Co., are spending their 55th year of marriage helping to keep Carson City streets safe. They are among 16 members of the VIP program, said Volunteer Coordinator Ken Smith. The volunteers handle abandoned vehicles, business watch, house watch, traffic control at accidents, vehicle impounds and false alarms calls.

"They do whatever is needed. Some of them even assist with jail visitation," said Smith. "They are jacks of all trades."

"Right now our VIPs are providing services to the community that the Sheriff's Office is not able to actively support in manpower or money," said Sheriff Ken Furlong. "In all the volunteers equate to 10 to 13 percent of the hours performed by the Sheriff's Department."

Part of Jo Maxwell's duties includes handling the False Alarm Abatement Program.

Furlong said the program has decreased false alarms by 50 percent in the last six years.

Maxwell goes out weekly to visit with businesses who've had false alarm calls and she along with the business owners and alarm companies, figure out ways to prevent false alarm calls.

Furlong said two deputies spend an hour on each alarm call securing the building and waiting on the responsible party to arrive to assure the alarm was not real.

"In 2002 we responded to 2,665 false alarms. In 2010 we had 1,562," he said. "I attribute that directly to Jo Maxwell and the VIPs. They've taken on the charge to reduce alarms by cooperation in the community."

Furlong said in addition to the alarm program, abandoned vehicles were a large problem in the city until the VIP program took on the challenge. Now that VIPs go out every day and track the abandoned vehicles, the ones that are truly abandoned are towed before opportunists come along and strip them of their value, leaving the city's tow company's responsible for disposing them and paying for their removal.

Furlong said the department's volunteers proved their worth during the 2004 Waterfall fire in which a wildfire consumed 17 homes on Carson City's west side.

"The greatest single accomplishment of the VIPs and with our reserve deputies was the Waterfall fire," he said. "With their help we were able to secure entire evacuated areas and not lose a single items to theft or looting."

Smith said the VIPs are just one way to volunteer for the Carson City Sheriff's Office. Volunteers are also used as reserve officer, members of aerosquadron and search and rescue. To volunteer for any of the programs visit

"The volunteers are extraordinarily invaluable," said Furlong.


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