Retirement didn’t stop this 85-year-old from working. Johnny Stringer from Orange County serves as a volunteer for Orlando Police Department and his age didn’t prevent him to be their top volunteer.
A retired member of the Navy, Stringer joined OPD’s Citizen Observer Program (C.O.P) in 2003. He trained during a 12-week course to observe the neighborhood and report suspected criminal activity.
“Well, I thought I could be some help, really, then I got into it, and it’s still here,” Stringer said. “Anything that looks suspicious, you know, along here — maybe kids running in the street, looking for people that perhaps are maybe being selling dope this kind of stuff,” he added. “I’m not allowed to question them, or say anything to them as a matter of fact, but just notice and observe.”
The hope is that I can be some help to keep down crime by my presence. I found out I was really helping out. —Johnny Stringer
In an interview, Stringer revealed that he almost quit volunteering in the early days of being a C.O.P. member. He explained that he started his patrol in the morning, but didn’t see any people on the streets.
“And I said, oh my God, people don’t even know I’m even here! I never see them.” But, during a community meeting, people told him that they saw him driving around the neighborhood. “Maybe I am doing something good, since they see me,” he said.
Stringer begins the day with his “marching orders” then starts driving around the west side for hours keeping guard around neighborhoods. He began patrolling several hours in a day and eventually progressed to six or seven hours daily. He now has contributed 25,000 hours of service to the city. Because of his service to the community, he was given the award of Everyday Hero twice.
“Well it makes you feel good, of course, to come out to be number one. I wasn’t striving to be number one. I just come and do what I do,” he said. “Then it makes you feel like you really are helping, doing something worthwhile.”
A former owner of a janitorial business in San Francisco, he decided to spend his retirement years in Central Florida when he read about OPD’s program.
“I read it in the newspaper they were looking for some volunteers,” he recalled. “They were looking for people to ride around in cars and observe.”
While he has no law enforcement authority and carry no weapons, Stringer revealed that being visible in the community still helps in deterring crimes and giving locals a sense of security.
“I rode up on a bunch of guys fighting. It was a gang on the west side,” he shared. “I got out to the car, they were swinging away at each other. Then, when they saw me, they all scattered, took off.”
Retirees are expected to relax and enjoy life, but the free time they have can also bring challenges. Seniors are advised to do activities that sharpen their minds and keep them engaged. Many keep busy by starting a new hobby or getting back again in the workforce.
Stringer likes being a member of C.O.P. and the support from the community keeps him going. “The feedback that I get from people when they tell me, ‘Well, we’re glad to see you in the neighborhood,’ that sort of thing,” he said. “The hope is that I can be some help to keep down crime by my presence. I found out I was really helping out.”
For more information on the Citizens Observer Program, visit the Orlando Police Department’s website.