Volunteer Homeland Reserve Unit
9811 W. Charleston Blvd. Suite 2-142
Las Vegas, NV 89117
The Volunteer Homeland Reserve Unit of Nevada (VHRU) is a self-organized and self-managed organization that provides volunteer services to several law neforcement agencies in Nevada including Las Vegas Metropolitan (LVMPD), Henderson (HPD), Boulder City (BCPD) and Mesquite (MPD) Police Departments. In addition, through an operating agreement with the State of Nevada Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management (NDPS), the VHRU is available to provide emergency support to the state or to any police agency in the state at the request of NDPS.
While on assignment in support of an agency, VHRU operations are directed and supervised by that agency through the VHRU chain of command. VHRU receives a substantial portion of its operating budget through NDPS. LVMPD and HPD also provide some funding and logistical support. The VHRU is also an IRS 501(c)(3) Corporation and solicits and receives funding from civic groups and businesses.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, retired NYPD Detective Theodore Farace felt the need to make a contribution to the safety of the country. It occurred to him that a group composed entirely of law enforcement veterans could make such a contribution. Consulting with a number of social organizations in the Las Vegas valley composed of such retired and ex-peace officers, he soon had gathered a significant number of volunteers. He then began negotiating with LVMPD, HPD, other local agencies, and with the state to provide support. The VHRU registered as a VIPS program under the aegis and with the support of LVMPD. Support agreements have now been negotiated with the agencies mentioned above and the program continues to expand on a carefully managed basis. Detective Farace serves as our President and Volunteer Coordinator.
A leadership cadre is composed of a Board of Directors, Team Leaders, and Squad Leaders. In addition there are staff positions: Administration, Legal Counsel, Communications Officers, and Public Information Officer. For day-to-day operations, members report to a squad leader. One or more squad leaders report to a Team Leader and the Team leaders report to the President who also serves in the capacity of Volunteer Coordinator. For operations in support of the police agencies, reporting lines and supervision are determined by the needs of the assignment and the preference of the requesting agency. In some cases, general direction is provided to the leadership team by the agency and direct supervision is exercised by the leadership. In other cases, direct supervision is exercised by agency personnel. For general assignments, all members are invited to be involved. In specialty assignments, specific investigatory backgrounds or other special skill sets may limit the volunteers who can be utilized. Each assignment is predicated on the needs of that particular request.
The VHRU has been involved in a variety of challenges, all of which have been successfully conducted.
Within days of Hurricane Katrina, a rest and recuperation evacuation program into Las Vegas was established for gulf coast fire and police personnel. Every five days, a new set of evacuees arrived and the prior set returned to duty. Within twenty-four hours of inception, it became apparent to LVMPD and Clark County Fire Department command staffs that the requirements exceeded their capacity to respond. The VHRU was requested to take over the operation. For the next several weeks, the VHRU ran command posts at five hotels, provided escort and transportation to evacuees twenty hours per day, and coordinated the activities of local fire and police personnel who were assigned to the effort. At its conclusion, command staffs of both the police and fire departments were unstinting in their praise for the professional way the operation had been conducted by VHRU.
In January, 2006, the battered body of a small child was found in a dumpster at a Las Vegas apartment complex. No clues could be found regarding her identity. LVMPD requested the VHRU’s assistance that evening. The next morning, over 60 VHRU members responded and began door-to-door canvassing of hundreds of homes, house trailers, and apartments in the area. Over the next several days, VHRU members canvassed and re-canvassed these areas, visited local schools to determine if there might be an older sibling in attendance, and reviewed many hours of surveillance tape footage from local markets and other businesses. These efforts were ultimately unsuccessful but necessary and it was later learned the child had no connection to the area in which she was found. During this effort, the VHRU received considerable exposure in local television and newspaper coverage. In addition, the VHRU was prominently featured in the nation-wide coverage on the America’s Most Wanted television show.
In July, 2006, a propane explosion occurred in North Las Vegas, near Interstate Highway 15 and a number of business and residential areas. LVMPD requested VHRU assistance within minutes and over forty VHRU volunteers responded on short notice. The VHRU was assigned to assist with perimeter control, to evacuate entire neighborhoods, and to assist with traffic control. This effort helped to assure the safety of hundreds of residents and unrestricted access for emergency equipment.
Each April, one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the United States occurs in Laughlin, a non-incorporated area within the jurisdiction of the Clark County Sheriff (LVMPD). Because of an incident of extreme violence between two outlaw motorcycle gangs several years ago, law enforcement efforts have increased considerably. Since then, the VHRU has been an integral part of the law enforcement team. LVMPD provides a number of “plain wrap” police vehicles and two-person VHRU teams are assigned to plainclothes surveillance and patrol, primarily to deter motorcycle theft. Each team is also equipped with LVMPD radios and call in uniformed or detective personnel whenever any situation they observe requires it. The VHRU also assists in the command post throughout the rally. In 2006, the VHRU was credited by name in the LVMPD after action report with being instrumental in reducing motorcycle thefts from sixteen in the prior year to three in 2006. Motorcycle thefts from the rally area in subsequent years have remained very low.
In 2007, the National Basketball Association All-Star game was held in Las Vegas. In prior years and other cities, this event has involved large scale or frequent violence. This year, intelligence sources indicated there would be a heavy influx of street gang visitation from west coast cities. LVMPD cancelled leaves and days off but was still short staffed. The VHRU was requested to field plainclothes surveillance teams in all the large malls in the area. Over a five day period, fifty-two VHRU volunteers covered all of these malls from mid-morning to late evening. Following the event, Sheriff Gillespie wrote individual letters of thanks to each VHRU participant, acknowledging their effort for their “support and assistance in helping Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department make this a safe and successful event”.
During the fall of 2007, a video-tape was turned in to the Nye County Sheriff's Office depicting horrendous sexual abuse of a young child. Because normal investigatory techniques failed to reveal the identities of the victim or assailant and to ensure the safety of the child victim, the Sheriff initiated a national publicity effort to make that identification. VHRU was called upon to staff the phone bank and, because of tips recieved in that phone bank, both victim and assailant were identified. That sexual predator has now been convicted and is incarcerated. The victim apparently suffered no lasting damage and was so young when the abuse occured, has no memory of it.
VHRU is included in the disaster response plans for local agencies. In 2005, Operation Loaded Dice, a region-wide disaster exercise, was conducted. The VHRU was assigned to secure and control the perimeter of a very large suburban mall complex. With short notification, seventy-two VHRU members responded and were solely responsible for security of that perimeter and for the closure of surrounding streets. Each year, the VHRU conducted its own disaster exercise. Scenarios involve major accidents, disasters, or terrorist acts and generally encompass a play area of at least dozens of square blocks. The VHRU fields their command post, manages the incident using established critical incident management techniques, and dispatchs VHRU teams to each affected location for traffic control and scene security. No actual traffic isobstructed or redirected but the traffic control teams are physically dispatched to the required areas. During 2007, VHRU was again responsible for perimeter and traffic control for a large scale exercise conducted by Henderson PD where the actual perimeter was closed and streets blockaded.
Each New Year’s Eve, Las Vegas becomes a combination festival, mob scene, and war zone. Policing these events is an all-hands proposition. For the past several years, LVMPD and HPD have requested VHRU teams to provide station security at each of the law enforcement stations in the area. From early evening until well into the next morning, VHRU teams patrol station perimeters and monitor security devices to prevent or detect unlawful activities at or around the stations.
VHRU's fields two mobile command posts for actual and simulated operations. Both are self-sufficient with electrical generation, internal and external lighting, command post furniture, personal computers for maintaining ICS records and logs, satellite telephones, and Clark County Mutual Aid Radio System base stations, mobile units, and hand-held radios. Both are also equipped with radios that operate on the operational frequencies of the agencies supported for direct communication.
Both LVMPD and HPD have large cold case homicide backlogs. Both agencies have requested VHRU assistance and selected VHRU volunteers have been assigned to review cases, determine if there are leads that could be currently pursued and assist with paperwork. In addition, other VHRU members assist agencies with missing juvenile cases, and assault abd robbery cases.
The VHRU has proven to be a unique organization among the ranks of Volunteers in Police Service. Contributing tens of thousands of hours to the community each year, they do so in ways that most police volunteer organizations could not. Our efforts free many police personnel from mundane tasks and allow them greater time to do their more important tasks. In addition, the VHRU provides levels of law enforcement service to the community that could not be obtained with current staffing levels in the agencies. The community is a better and safer place because of the contributions of the VHRU.
Date established: January 2003
Hours volunteers contributed last year: 17,075
Last updated: 3/17/2009
Locals Recognized By Homeland Reserve Unit (1/24/2009)