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Volunteers on patrol: Why not?

Out of all the many jobs a local government does, arguably, the most challenging and most important is keeping its community safe.

We’re fortunate in Woodburn that we have a well-equipped and capable police force. However, though it is certainly a larger and better-funded law-enforcement organization than even some jurisdictions elsewhere in our state can claim, due to realistic budget constraints, the Woodburn Police Department has not been able to entirely keep pace with our ever-growing population.

Even Police Chief Scott Russell admits he does not have as many officers patrolling the streets of Woodburn as he might like — hence, his department’s request last week to apply for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant that would partially fund a new school resource officer.

We have no desire to shame or flagellate the city or police department for their finite resources. We are simply acknowledging the fact that WPD’s presence is not widespread or visible enough to deter all crime in our city.

The residents of The Estates Golf &?Country Club community now know this lesson as well as anyone.

During a recent public forum at The Estates, a resident asked WPD representatives what we feel to be a legitimate question. He wanted to know what they thought of a volunteer “citizens’ patrol,” plying their neighborhood streets under the auspices of the WPD and serving as an extra set of eyes for police.

Such a thing is not unheard of. The city of Gresham operates something similar, and the idea was recently broached locally by Estates resident Jim Frogge, who wants to start such a group.

We are intrigued by such a creative (and low-cost) proposal to combat the repeated and reprehensible vandalism sprees on houses in the Estates.

However, we acknowledge that we are not law-enforcement professionals. As those with their “boots on the ground,” we believe police officials are the best and most-suited individuals to say whether citizen volunteers in policing is a good fit for Woodburn.

So, we think the ball is now in their court. If they believe such a program is a good fit for our community, and could be reasonably expected to aid the police in its mission to protect and serve, we would urge them to come alongside those residents who wish to volunteer their time to help make their streets safer.

We, like the Estates resident who spoke out last week, would prefer that such a group be trained and supervised by police rather than operating independently.

If, on the other hand, leaders at the city and WPD deem such a proposal not a good fit for Woodburn, we respect that such a decision is their prerogative. But we would ask them to explain themselves, at least to the Estates residents who have asked to be granted this opportunity.

We think they are owed that much.



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