Volunteer patrol keeps South Shore safe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Volunteer patrol keeps South Shore safe

They are the eyes and ears of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department.

At festivals or the scene of an accident they help with traffic control and security. When a vacation home is left empty for months, they patrol the area to prevent break-ins.

Since 1994, STARS, the Sheriff’s Team of Active Retirees, have volunteered thousands of hours to help keep the county near South Shore safe.

“They watch, but don’t take action,” said Deputy Tim Mazzoni, organizer of a STARs training academy held at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center this week and last. “They don’t carry guns or weapons but they do have two (patrol) cars with big stars and overhead lights.”

At least once each year El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department trains a new batch of STARs. This year seven people want to volunteer at the department.

There are 18 active volunteers already in the program. An application, a clean background check and a good attitude are the job requirements. Once hired, a person is required to work 16 hours a month to stay on the force.

Ray Angel, 71, is one of the seven volunteers who came out Monday to be trained by Lt. Warren Smith, a 30-year-veteran of the department. He taught a class on weapon awareness.

“Everything has been fascinating,” Angel said. “Not just as a STAR. I think a general citizen should know this stuff.”

Angel said he doesn’t mind being retired, but that does not mean he wants to be idle. In addition to working as a STAR, he plans to instruct skiers at Sierra-at-Tahoe this winter.

“When you retire you can’t sit in a rocking chair, you’ve go to do something,” he said. “You’re part of a community. I think that’s important.”

Last week, trainees learned about drugs and alcohol, child abuse, the penal code and radio procedures. The rest of this week volunteers will be schooled on driving techniques, court and office procedures and then take a written test and hopefully graduate Friday.

“We’re old but we’re very capable,” said Rosemary Lario, a 64-year-old from Meyers who’s been a STAR for the past four years. “I find it really rewarding. You feel part of the community and you have a camaraderie with the Sheriff’s office.”

The deputies seem to agree. Mazzoni, who has been leading the STARs for a year and a half, has no desire to quit. Neither did Lt. Les Lovell, the man who started the program at South Lake six years ago.

“One of my deepest regrets was having to give up the job of STAR program coordinator,” Lovell, commander of the jail, said. “I miss the friendship I had on a daily basis. Having STAR volunteers on your watch, I don’t have that luxury anymore. I do miss the dynamics of the group. They are a tremendous asset to this station.”

Anyone interested in being part of the STAR program should call (530) 573-3000 and ask for Deputy Tim Mazzoni.

Gregory Crofton can be reached at gcrofton@tahoe.com or (530) 541-3880, ext. 249

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