MILTON-FREEWATER — A recent spate of crime led residents of Milton-Freewater to start a citizens' patrol and brought them to city council on Monday to request the support of the city.
Community members want to "Take Back Our Little Town of Milton-Freewater," per the name of the Facebook group a number in attendance Monday said they follow.
Jason Gruening, a member of the group, said residents need to be walking and patrolling the streets during the middle of the night.
"We want to help out, we want to take our darn town back," he said.
He also said the group plans to schedule regular meetings and to meet with Police Chief Doug Boedigheimer.
Boedigheimer addressed the council and audience, detailing how busy he and his 10 officers and six dispatchers have been.
“There was a robbery at the tea room there on Columbia,” he said. “There is the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office robbery out at the cigarette store on Stateline Road. Then there’s the murder of poor George Martin. Then there’s the robbery of the Union-Bulletin paper carrier and, heartbreakingly so, there’s the robbery at Sam’s Corner Market this morning,” he said.
Boedigheimer said evidence supports the department’s theory these robberies are connected. He also spoke about Martin, 60, who was found dead Jan. 4. from a gunshot wound in a home on Southeast Seventh Street.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of the job your officers, your detectives, your dispatchers are doing on this case. They took basically nothing and are on a road that is skirting right on resolution," he said.
Councilor Brad Humburt said the city has tried to get a citizens' patrols started at least three times, and the group will only get his support if they organize themselves, act like grown adults and prove they will follow through.
"All the people that come in here," he said, "they get madder than hell, and 'we're gonna go out and do something and take back our town,' and it lasts about two months, and they disappear and it just goes away."
The council nor the police department expressed official support for the group.