New York State Police and citizen volunteers have completed the 38th annual Pumpkin Patrol watch. This is a two-day volunteer crime prevention program involving New York State Amateur Radio Associations working with Law Enforcement for safe Halloween eves. The objective is to ward off Halloween pranks and protect motorists traveling the Thruway. Patrols consist of NYS State Police Troop T Troopers and local Amateur Radio Operators from area ham radio clubs.
On October 30th and 31st, from 6 pm to 11 pm, volunteers monitor NYS Thruway overpasses and report any unusual activity to law enforcement. State Police say 15 organizations from 19 counties have volunteered to participate this year statewide.
The New York State Police Troop T partnered with the Amateur Radio Associations to create a crime prevention program called Pumpkin Patrol. The Pumpkin Patrol began as a volunteer effort in 1976 by Katherine St. Jacques in Fort Johnson, Montgomery County. She was talking to a truck driver on her CB radio when his windshield was struck by an object thrown from an overpass. The driver was injured by flying glass. St. Jacques and friends started monitoring overpasses the following year for suspicious activity. Since then, every October 30th and October 31st, from 6 pm to 11 pm, volunteers guarded the overpasses throughout the region to help prevent people from committing crimes.
In 1984 the Pumpkin Patrol expanded to involve Amateur Radio Operators as they could provide more extensive communications than the CB radios could provide. By 1985 the Pumpkin Patrol was providing coverage along the New York State Thruway from Syracuse to Newburgh.
In 1990 St. Jacques decided to retire and turned the coordination over to the NYS State Police Troop T (Thruway). Coverage was expanded again from Orange County to Chautauqua County.
The Fort Herkimer Amateur Radio Association (FHARA) has been involved with the Pumpkin Patrol for many years and this year monitored 14 different points along the New York State Thruway at overpasses in Herkimer County. Thankfully, with 16 FHARA Ham Radio Operators on duty this year, no suspicious activity was reported. Members lighted vehicles located at the ends of the bridges act as a deterrent for any potential criminal activity.
The NY State Police from Troop T in Syracuse had Troopers patrolling their zones off the Thruway and stopping at every Radio Operator’s checkpoint to thank us for our participation and compliment us on our work and dedication. They completed rounds on both nights.
The Fort Herkimer Radio Association regularly trains to provide communications for community events when needed.
The Fort Herkimer Radio Association welcomes new members interested in becoming Amateur Radio Operators and regularly offers an FCC entry-level course for Technicians (no morse code required).
The FHARA meets monthly on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, usually at the Herkimer County 911 Center at 7 pm. Meetings are free of charge and open to the public.
Anyone interested in the club can attend a meeting or call club President Don Peterson KD2ILO at 1315-868-3283 or Educational Committee Chairman Chris Bouck KB4CMF at 1-315-429-3927 for more information.