Chester County's district attorney made an unusual job offer yesterday - urging citizens to join his staff of crime-fighters to maintain community safety.

The invitation comes with a hitch:

The positions are volunteer. So even though they might satisfy CSI cravings, they won't pay any bills.

"I can't offer much in the way of a tangible reward beyond some tokens of appreciation," Joseph W. Carroll wrote in a news release. "But I can guarantee that the opportunity to do important public service work that helps keep our community safe will bring a sense of satisfaction that money can't buy."

Of course, it was money - or lack thereof - that motivated his request.

Carroll said the District Attorney's Office, like all county departments and most private businesses, is operating with a flat budget. Coupling that reality with higher costs translates into fewer resources at a time when population increases and a stagnant economy are likely to hike the demand for services, Carroll said.

"Chester County already has the lowest crime rate in Southeastern Pennsylvania," Carroll wrote, adding that he wanted not only to maintain services but also to improve them.

Toward that end, he could use help with a host of law-enforcement duties, including microfilming, typing, and grant applications. For those with legal training, pro bono work is available at preliminary hearings and in forfeiture cases, and accounting expertise would be welcomed in white-collar criminal cases.

Other local district attorney's offices have benefited from volunteers.

In Montgomery County, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said, the office has "consistently over many years" used volunteers for legal and administrative work. The county Web site lists volunteer opportunities for the Elder Abuse Task Force, the Montgomery County Child Advocacy Project, and pro bono attorney work, among others.

"We rely on them so significantly that I doubt we could do the job that we do without their help," Ferman said of the volunteers.

David Heckler, new Bucks County district attorney, said senior citizens had helped the paid staff in the past with duties such as locating, delivering, and maintaining files. He added that he has had recent discussions with retired police officers interested in volunteering help.

"I would like to identify persons who would be interested in volunteering on a more regular basis," but the Chester County initiative "sounds a little bit more like 'all hands on deck,' and we're not doing anything like that," Heckler said.

In Chester County, anyone interested in volunteering is being asked to call 610-344-6826.

As for the "tokens of appreciation," Carroll said he had not determined what they would be.

Under consideration: "D.A. volunteer" shirts or hats.

Not on the short list: get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-696-3815 or kbrady@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Derrick Nunnally and Larry King contributed to this article.