Before Manny Jurado moved to Dana Point 13 years ago, he ran a bicycle shop where he would service bikes for the Industry Sheriff’s Station. Through his work tuning up bikes, Jurado developed lifelong friendships with the officers and deputies who would stop by, even mountain biking together from time to time.
So, when Jurado saw an advertisement for the Dana Point Police Services’ Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) program, he thought he could start tuning up bikes for officers in Dana Point.
“When I came here, it was almost a natural thing. I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do that,’ ” Jurado said. “So, I came and applied, and they hired me.”
Now 82 years old, Jurado credits his volunteering to his longevity and quality of life.
“To me, being able to get up in the morning, have a purpose in life, and I know that when I come here, I’m going to contribute, and it’s appreciated, and they let me know all the time,” Jurado said.
“Because I’m doing that, and if you look at the different things that they say you’re supposed to do when you get old so that you don’t get old, one of them is volunteer, and that’s what I do,” Jurado continued.
Twice a week, Jurado volunteers at the Dana Point Police Services front desk.
In the mornings, Jurado organizes the front desk, checks for missed phone calls and messages and waits for incoming calls and visitors.
“I call it triage,” Jurado said. “When they come in, I’ll ask them a couple of questions to find out what it is they need so that I can make sure that they get to the right person that can help them with whatever it is.”
“In some cases, it may be just some questions that over the years I’ve learned to answer,” Jurado continued. “Other ones, when they involve more intense police involvement, I make sure that the proper deputy or the proper person that can handle it, handles it.”
Volunteers can assist with van patrol, bike patrol, or administrative work at the front desk.
Through van patrol, VIPS members conduct vacation home checks, look for graffiti or homeless encampments and help with traffic control, Crime Prevention Specialist Jill Jackson explained.
If a volunteer notices anything suspicious while on van patrol, Jackson noted that VIPS are expected to call a deputy to check out the scene. Jackson emphasized that the Dana Point Police Services never wants to put volunteers in danger.
“It’s just an extra set of eyes and ears,” Jackson said.
On bike patrol, volunteers typically ride near the harbor or assist with special events in the city.
“Festival of Whales, Turkey Trot, Fourth of July, they just cruise around to be out there and field questions,” Jackson said.
“As far as event stuff goes, we couldn’t do it without their help, because they take on a lot,” Jackson continued. “They’re a huge benefit also to the residents.”
Starting this year, VIPS will also be able to join the new Park Ambassador Program.
“With the new Park Ambassador Program, we want to show an increased police presence in all of our local parks,” Jackson said. “There’s been a lot of concerns from the community with e-bikes and trash and vandalism.”
“We wouldn’t use our volunteers for an enforcement capacity, obviously, but just to either be a deterrent for crime and be available to talk to out-of-town visitors and answer questions. Just a good representation of Police Services and the City of Dana Point.”
Jackson added that Police Services trains VIPS members with all the knowledge they’ll need to serve the public.
“You don’t have to have a law enforcement background or anything, we’ll get you up to speed and educate you on how things work so when you get approached by a citizen, you’re not going to get caught off guard,” Jackson said.
After trying out each of the volunteer options with the police services, Jurado decided working the front desk was his favorite.
“I love the front desk, because I consider it the most important,” Jurado said. “That’s one where you have to have a little bit of knowledge to be able to decide what it is they want.”
Jurado added that while he loves cycling and getting the chance to interact with members of the public, working the front desk is “dear to my heart.”
“I’m pretty effective at the front desk at talking people down,” Jurado said. “In between that and whatever other thing that may come in, I feel that’s what my forte is, if you will.”
Jackson added that Jurado is especially well-suited for assisting members of the public at the front desk because of his compassion.
“You never know what you’re going to get, and you have to kind of be on these people’s level and be kind and listen and have compassion, and Manny is amazing at all of those things,” Jackson said. “So, if someone’s going to come in with something catastrophic, there’s no better person to be up there to talk them down and to make them feel loved and not scared.”
Jurado’s experience volunteering with the Orange County Trauma Intervention Program also helps him to assist grieving visitors.
After 12 years of volunteering with the Dana Point Police Services, Jurado said there are many reasons to apply to join the VIPS team.
“No. 1, they’re doing a great service for the city because part of our job as volunteers is to let the police do police stuff, and we can do the stuff that isn’t to that level,” Jurado said, adding: “Another thing is just the pride and the satisfaction that you’re working with the police and that you’re doing a service to the community.”
Jackson chimed in, stating the VIPS team has become a family over the years.
“We’re part of the family as soon as we become a VIP, and that’s another big thing for me,” Jurado said. “I like that probably more than anything else is that I’m a part of this family here, and they treat me as such.”
Chief of Dana Point Police Services Capt. Todd Hylton added that VIPS members are “invaluable.”
“The work they do in the city is so amazing. They connect us to the community, and that’s really what we want,” Hylton said. “We’re looking for people that want to find volunteer opportunities, and this is a great way to do it.”
Information on applying for a volunteer position can be found at governmentjobs.com.