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Citizen’s Academy Patrol keeps holiday shoppers safe

By Bonney Bowman 6:50 AM December 19, 2013

The volunteers patrol the parking lots of Anchorage's larger malls in teams of two, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

ANCHORAGE – During the holidays, mall parking lots are busy places and can be prime targets for thieves looking to make a quick buck.

That’s where the Citizen’s Academy Patrol comes in: They act as the eyes and ears for Anchorage police, and the front line in the fight to prevent criminals from stealing Christmas.

Howdy Rambur leads the team.

“We’re not here as cops,” he said. “We’re here to help the mall security prevent this stuff from going on. We don’t need this in our city.”

In teams of two, the volunteers patrol the parking lots of the bigger malls in Anchorage. They’re looking for anything out of the ordinary.

The volunteers undergo a background check and weeks of training with the Anchorage Police Department, which sees them as a vital tool.

“We want to partner with the community because there’s just not enough of us to do it,” said Capt. Dave Koch. ”There’s no way that we could effectively protect without the community involvement.”

The volunteers patrol the parking lots, writing down suspect and vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers. They call police and mall security when they see anything suspicious.

“If we feel it’s not right, then we call the police department and let them determine whether it’s right or wrong and they respond pretty rapidly to it,” Rambur said.

This is the first holiday season the Citizen’s Academy has patrolled at the malls, and they have some tips for shoppers.

The most important: lock your car. The patrol advises people to keep shopping bags in the trunk, out of sight, and if someone watches you load up your car, move it to another location before going on with your shopping.

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