Rural Oregon Residents Organize Community Patrols To Offset Lapsed Sheriff’s Coverage

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Regular readers of Personal Liberty Digest™ may recall a May story that described what can happen when people are confronted by the reality that the police provide neither blanket preventive protection, nor an instant recourse, against crime. Crime is unpredictable by nature, typically affecting people when criminals know their targets are at their most vulnerable. And that’s a fact no amount of police coverage will ever change.

When a woman in rural Josephine County, Ore., called 911 to send a deputy to help fend off an ex-boyfriend who ultimately entered her home and attacked her, the dispatcher told her: “Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there.” The attacker didn’t kill the woman, but he did hurt her. The cops later caught up with him and arrested him for kidnapping, sex abuse and assault.

That attack came at a time when the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office had laid off 23 deputies, closed its Major Crimes Unit and slashed its in-service patrolling hours to eight-hour weekdays. Budget cuts from the termination of Federal timber subsidies, which had long helped fund the sheriff’s office, had forced the sheriff’s office to make the cuts. Residents had already voted down an additional ad valorem tax, leaving the county with no other option.

In the wake of that decimation, former law enforcement officials in the area decided to come up with a stopgap solution. It’s not one that will prevent imminent crimes from occurring, but it could sanction the popular acceptance of a do-it-yourself ethic — one that encourages people to view personal protection as an individual responsibility, and not the sole task of cash-strapped, far-flung rural sheriff’s offices.

From a FOX News report Thursday:

Ken Selig — who was the longest-serving law enforcement officer in all three local agencies when he was forced to retire from the department due to cuts — told FoxNews.com he found the sheriff’s declaration unacceptable. And he felt compelled to guard his community’s vulnerable members.

“Who else is going to protect you when your government can’t?” Selig said.

Over the objections of county officials, who viewed the ad valorem increase as the only viable solution, Selig and a friend created the North Valley Community Watch, a grass-roots crime-fighting organization that covers all of Josephine County and recruits residents to participate in monthly training sessions that focus on personal safety. The group has about 100 members, as well as a smaller, 12-member response unit that will respond at the scene of any non-life-threatening situation. (The group is still leaving life-threatening response scenarios to the sheriff’s office in order to avoid the wrath of the sheriff’s office, but the response team does carry firearms.)

Selig doesn’t claim that the watch group — one of several similar groups that have emerged to address the lapse in law enforcement coverage — is a cure-all, or that it can miraculously stop crime before it starts. But he does believe that citizen involvement makes a big difference in changing the culture of dependency on the state for personal protection — a culture in which criminals thrive.

“We believe responsible citizens doing responsible things make it hard for criminals to do irresponsible things,” he told FOX News.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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