Help the sheriff: great hours, no pay

June 05, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

HELP WANTED: Editor for monthly newsletter. Clerks for personnel, telephones, data entry and records. Flexible hours. No pay.

Deputy 1st Class Dave Betz of the Harford County Sheriff's Office would laugh, too, if he spotted the above ad in a newspaper.

But those are the jobs Deputy Betz, the director of volunteer services, is hoping to fill.

Since the beginning of the volunteer program at the Sheriff's Office in December 1991, Deputy Betz has not had any trouble recruiting county residents to staff the variety of jobs that help keep the office running smoothly.

In that span, he said, county residents have received almost 9,000 hours of volunteer services.

"We've attracted lots of retired policemen, people who did this kind of work all their lives and now come in to help out," the deputy said.

Twenty-two volunteer positions are staffed, and Deputy Betz said he would like to add about 15 recruits.

All volunteers must be 18, pass a criminal background check, have no serious traffic violations and be willing to sign a waiver of liability, the deputy said.

A Telephone Reporting Unit instituted last August, which handles hundreds of weekly complaints concerning minor vandalism and theft, is operated by an all-volunteer staff.

Instead of dispatching a deputy to meet the complainant and obtain the information, the volunteers do the same work on the telephone, allowing more time for deputies to patrol.

The Telephone Reporting Unit recently was one of 12 finalists nominated for an achievement award by the National Association of Counties, headquartered in Washington. NACO Director Peter Lane said 1,700 applications from counties nationwide were received. That list was paired to 12.

"The Harford County Sheriff's Office Telephone Reporting Unit program is one of the 12 volunteer programs selected to be featured in our annual booklet," Mr. Lane said.

The annual NACO Achievement Award winner will be announced in mid-June, he said.

"We're very proud to be included in that list of 12 finalists," said Capt. Richard M. Aiello, who heads the Administrative Services Division of the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

The oldest volunteer -- he won't say how old -- is Bill Martellucci, a retiree and the 12th of 25 children. He and his wife, Fay, moved from New England to Bel Air 18 months ago after their two daughters moved to Bel Air and Perry Hall.

Mr. Martellucci was an electroplater for the federal government in Rhode Island when the installation where he was employed closed.

He was expected to quit or transfer to California, he said.

"I didn't want to move, and someone suggested I try for an opening in government security," said Mr. Martellucci.

After he retired from his security job and moved here, Mr. Martellucci said,he found himself eager to occupy his time. He dropped into the Sheriff's Office at 45 S. Main St. in Bel Air "just to chat."

He said a detective suggested he try volunteer work. Now, he spends 40 to 50 hours a month greeting visitors to the Sheriff's Office, manning the security desk,where he signs them in and directs them to the proper offices.

The busiest volunteer is Diane Bowman, 20, of Bel Air, who averages 100 hours a month helping Deputy Betz with the Crime Prevention Unit and the community volunteer program.

The 1991 graduate of C. Milton Wright High School has been a full-time student of criminal justice at Harford Community College.

Miss Bowman has been in the program since September 1992. She recently passed 1,600 hours as a Sheriff's Office volunteer. She, Bernadine Beatty and Patricia Rohrman are the only volunteers who have more than 1,000 volunteer hours.

Miss Bowman sets up the schedules for the Telephone Reporting Unit volunteers and keeps tabs on all volunteer hours served.

Volunteers are not told when to work, she said. They say when they are available, and the schedule is prepared based on their availability.

Miss Bowman recently quit a part-time salaried job rather than cut back her nonsalaried time at the Sheriff's Office. "There just wasn't any time for a social life, and I wasn't going to give up the volunteer work," she said.

For more details on the Sheriff's Office volunteer program, call Deputy Betz, (410) 836-5440.

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