The Howard County Police Department is launching a new, volunteer mounted patrol unit, just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the department announced Friday.
The unit, made up of 12 volunteers and their horses, will patrol parks, pathways and other locations in the Savage area, acting as a "high visibility deterrent to crime," according to a news release from the department.
It is the county's first mounted patrol.
The volunteers, who will ride in pairs, will watch for and report violations and concerns, and assist in investigative and administrative work. They will also be present at community functions and events.
The holiday weekend will serve as an official kick-off for the patrol, with patrols scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
But the volunteer patrols will continue to aid police on an event-by-event basis, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.
While the patrol program will be launched in Savage Park, it will expand to include the whole county.
"We won't use them every day, but certainly at community events, or on the weekends during nice weather when we know there'll be a lot of people out in any given area of the county," Llewellyn said.
The volunteers have no arrest or enforcement powers, but will serve as "eyes and ears" of the police, the release said.
Each volunteer underwent a 32-hour academy class, where they learned basic information about the department and local laws.
Uniforms and police radios were the only expense to the department.
Police will also be conducting seat belt checks at various locations around the county this weekend. In addition, officers will be conducting targeted traffic enforcement on several roads, including routes 29, 175, 40 and 32.