Pat O’Shea and Bruce Bowles are neighbors, friends and patrol partners.

A few years ago, the two men decided they wanted to help the Dallas Police Department and happened upon a program called Citizens Helping in Parking Solutions, or CHIPS. Now the two men belong to a group of neighborhood residents who patrol parking lots to write tickets and educate the public about the laws regarding disabled parking.

“We look at our job as two-fold – education and enforcement,” says Joseph Saar, a CHIPS volunteer.

Before hitting the parking lots, they undergo extensive training. Bowles teaches new recruits for six hours in a classroom setting, covering how to avoid conflict and write tickets. After the classroom, new trainees ride with an experienced volunteer for a while.

The volunteers have a strict protocol. No weapons, no confrontations, and they must wear a uniform – slacks with a white shirt bearing the Dallas Police Department volunteer logo. They work in two-hour shifts and patrol with a partner in their own cars, bearing a magnetic decal provided by the police department.

“We represent the Dallas police department and the city of Dallas,” Saar says.

Any parking lot within the Northeast Police Division patrol area is fair game. But the volunteers have their favorite spots, such as Presbyterian Hospital and NorthPark Center. Business owners also complain if too many people illegally park in their lot. At the owners’ request, the CHIPS volunteers have helped clean up the Hotel Palomar. And for a while, some volunteers worked on Sundays, going to neighborhood churches where people would illegally park while in services.

“It’s a tremendous asset to the force,” says Sr. Cpl. Jason Sibley, who works with the volunteers. “There’s only so many officers and we’re usually going from call to call to call.”

When patrolling, CHIPS volunteers work quickly, covering about 25 miles a shift and writing up to 10 tickets an hour. They pull into a parking lot, spot the disabled spots, and cruise by to check the plates and placards. They can write tickets for no placard or plate, a fraudulent placard, or blocking a disabled access. And the tickets come with a hefty $100 fine that bumps up to $195 if it’s not paid within 15 days.

In 2007, CHIPS volunteers in the Northeast Division patrolled for a total of 338 hours and wrote 222 tickets.

“It’s a sense of community,” Sibley says. “It’s something inside that makes them want to serve.”

For information about CHIPS or other volunteer opportunities with the police department, contact Sr. Cpl. Jason Sibley at 214.670.7768 or jason.sibley@ dpd.dallascityhall.com, or visit northeastcrimewatch.org.