As members of the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) for San Diego Police Department's Eastern Division, Gregg and Melody Stoner's accomplishments include recovering 62 stolen vehicles since May 2012. That's when a license-plate reader was installed in the RSVP patrol car. The total rose to 63 vehicles on August 12 when Gregg noticed an odd gold Saturn in the Mission Trails Golf Course parking lot.
I rode along with the married couple as they patrolled San Carlos. We came upon the Saturn, which lacked license plates, had a window rolled down, and the steering wheel turned in such a way that indicated the driver may have left quickly, according to Gregg. "He's got good hunches," Melody said while he called in the suspicious car.
When officer Paul Fay arrived, he opened the door and found a broken brake. The Stoners continued a patrol that included driving past Cowles Mountain to prevent vehicle break-ins.
"They wave as if we're their friends," said Gregg of the suspicious people who often reveal themselves.
The Stoners' beat that day included patrolling “critical area” sites, such as reservoirs or synagogues, which could be targets for terrorists or hate crimes.
At Lake Murray, Melody went to unlock the northern gate so they could drive and look for people suffering from heat exhaustion. However, they saw a dog standing next to a baby in a stroller. As Gregg started to notify dispatch, a woman ran up a hill and said, "I just left when you came. I went to get water." She took the baby and dog and went down the hill.
The Stoners' shift included visiting a 91-year-old woman who is homebound. They did a vacation check on a Rowena Street home, confirming the house was secure.
The couple, who married in 1968, patrols on Mondays and Fridays. The shift starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. for most volunteers. The Stoners go back on patrol until 7 or 9 p.m. They stay longer if needed and patrol on holidays.
Volunteers are asked to contribute 312 hours annually, according to Bob Mazeika, Eastern Division’s RSVP administrator. In an interview before the ride-along, Mazeika said the Stoners have volunteered 11,200 combined hours since joining RSVP in September 2009.
The Stoners worked together in the mortgage industry, and Gregg had longed to work in law enforcement. After height and age restrictions were lifted, he faced agility tests. "Now I don't have to climb any six-foot walls," he said.
Melody, an avid mystery fan, said, "I've always been interested in the law and the legal system. It's fun to be part of it, to help."
The couple ended patrol at 9 p.m., Gregg said in interview. During the evening, they assisted with traffic control after a person collapsed on Montezuma Road. Gregg also reported that the Saturn was stolen from a La Mesa repair shop.