Community control helps combat crime

June 22, 2012 12:43 pm

By Mike Shearer

The Observer

 They call themselves the “eyes and ears for the sheriff’s department in Union.”

They are the Union Community Patrol.

“We have been told we cut crime here about in half,” said Jeanne Johnson, one of those active in the patrol.

Several years ago, Union gave up its own police department –– primarily because of the cost –– and it has ever since contracted with the Union County sheriff for protection.

But several citizens have for many years now patrolled the town in pairs, checking business doors to make sure they’re locked, monitored activities in the park, and driving past homes of people who have notified the patrol that they will be out of town.

“We work hard at what we do, and we don’t get much thanks,” Johnson said. “We do it for our little town.”

Although she patrols as a private citizen, Johnson happens to be a city councilor and president pro tempore of the council in the mayor’s absence. She said she started with the patrol in 2006 or 2007 and said “four or five” people are now actively involved.

She said the late Jack Zimmerman was very active in the community patrol.

They always go out in pairs for safety, she said, and at random times. “It might be at 6 p.m. or midnight.”

They step up their patrols during the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show. 

“We drive around,” Johnson said. “We stop and check business doors to make sure they’re looked at night. We will do house watches day or night when people are out of town.”

She said people can call her or fill out a form at City Hall to request the drive by patrol when they are out of town.

She said over-all the town’s reaction has been positive but added, “We have certain teenagers that think we’re ruining the fun for them by not letting them tear up the park. A couple of years ago the park had a rowdy crowd. You wouldn’t want your little kids there.” She said the park is much safer now.

She emphasized those on patrol don’t carry guns and they don’t confront anyone. 

“If they’re not doing anything wrong, we don’t bother them,” she said. “But if anything is out of the ordinary, we call the sheriff.” And she has praise for the speed with which the sheriff responds.

She said they also might ask the sheriff to check on the welfare of senior citizens if no one has seen them for a while.

“Our seniors and our businesses are important to us. And the safety of our children is important to us because those little kids are going to run this town some day.”