A unit of volunteers patrolling the streets and roads of Madison Township, under the direction and tutelage of the township's police department, is a winning proposition, according to Madison Township Trustee Gary McDonald.

A unit of volunteers patrolling the streets and roads of Madison Township, under the direction and tutelage of the township's police department, is a winning proposition, according to Madison Township Trustee Gary McDonald.

He unveiled his proposal for a township Community Watch Patrol at the Madison Township Board of Trustees' meeting on April 19.

McDonald said the program would enhance a community crime-prevention strategy by assisting the Madison Township Police Department in acting as the "eyes and ears" of the community. He said the all-volunteer force would be charged with simply reporting suspicious persons and activities throughout the township, something he said would reduce crime.

To bolster support for the proposed Community Watch Patrol, McDonald enlisted the assistance of Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen to speak to the trustees about his own county's experiences with its program.

"Does it deter crime? I can't tell you," Phalen said. "We have 500 square miles in Fairfield County, so I really can't say that. What it does do is give neighbors a sense of security and they like that and it saves me money.

"If someone is locked out of a car, we don't have to send a deputy up there to help them," said Phalen, who added that his community volunteers also assist with traffic control and parade duties as well as perform clerical work in the county's civil division.

"It's a very positive thing with minimal cost and would be a great public relations for your township and community," he said.

Phalen said there are restrictions in place to ensure only committed and qualified volunteers are enrolled in Fairfield County's Community Watch program.

"We try to make sure they kind of fit into the program. We don't take everybody. We do a criminal background check, a traffic check. We don't want someone confronting people; all we want them to do is report suspicious activity," he said.

Phalen said the only cost incurred for each volunteer in Fairfield County is $70 per year for deferred comp insurance in addition to uniforms and mandatory training. Vehicles are also provided for patrolling the roads.

McDonald said Madison Township, with a total of 42 road miles, would only need one car for a Community Watch unit to effectively patrol the township. Phalen acknowledged that fuel would be an additional expense, but the smaller size of the patrol area would mean less expense and more coverage.

McDonald said with passage of last year's Madison Township police levy, which allowed for the purchase of two new additional cruisers, "one of the (old) cruisers can be rotated and refurbished for a community watch vehicle."

Township Fiscal Officer Barb Adams said any program costs incurred to the township for a Community Watch program probably won't come from levy money.

"Looking at the wording on our levy that we passed, it talks about permanent equipment," she said. "We might have to pay (for the program) through our general fund and not through the police department."

McDonald acknowledged that the logistics of costs, training and manpower will all have to be discussed by fellow trustees Victor Paini and Ed Dildine and Township Administrator Susan Brobst before it is implemented.

"This is something I want for the township," he said. "At the next meeting (May 16,) there will be a decision whether or not to implement the program. I'm going to request a resolution be made and then have a vote on this."