With the quickly growing population in Fort Worth, police can't be everywhere at once. That's where the "Code Blue" Citizens on Patrol program comes in.
But now, the program is at risk of losing volunteers because of a tax problem.
It’s noon on a typical Wednesday and Lance Griggs is signing on.
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“Summerfields one to base,” he said into a walkie-talkie.
He’s ready to roll out, with his trusty sidekick of 54 years, his wife, Judy. For the past 20 years, the couple’s date night has turned into late night patrol, volunteering for Fort Worth’s Code Blue program.
“Friday and Saturday nights I usually go out about 11:30 and we stay out until 2:30, 3:30 in the morning,” said Griggs.
By day, it’s a check of the local restaurants, for anyone trying to break into cars at lunchtime.
“We have more laptops stolen up at these restaurants than you can shake a stick at,” said Griggs.
The couple logged 1,200 hours on patrol last year.
“Basically, we’re providing that intelligence, 'hey, I saw what appeared to be a drug deal going down in the Kroger parking lot,'” Griggs said.
All they get in return is a fuel reimbursement, for their many miles on the road. But that money’s now at risk of being cut, because of problems with how it’s taxed and Mr. Griggs worries volunteers will go with it.
“I know of three up here in north division that have dropped out just simply because of the hassle and that’s the thing with volunteers, you can’t hold their feet to the fire. If they don’t want to do it, you can’t stop them from leaving.”
That’s a big problem, because as quickly as Fort Worth’s population is growing, the police force hasn’t kept pace.
“This program replaced the eyes and ears that the police didn’t have to go out and fund,” said Griggs. “Just being out present, people see the signs and they know that people are watching. The bad guys don’t like people watching when they’re out doing things.”
The Griggs' are citizens with a desire to serve.
“I believe that you need to take positive action to make your neighborhood better,” said Griggs.
Fort Worth police made it clear to NBC 5 that they really value this program and want to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.
They're working with the city's legal and finance departments to find a way to keep the fuel money flowing and hope to have a solution soon.