Last week we printed a story about a community watch group forming in La Grande. A local couple heard about the reported robberies that occurred last fall and decided to take action. The program is “designed to increase the safety and sense of community in north La Grande.”

The idea absolutely has merit. The group of people who want to be a part of this is taking strides toward keeping our neighborhoods safe and keeping watchful eyes on potential criminal activity. A community watch is a way to take pride in your community. It’s a way to make sure that an already safe community, which La Grande is, stays safe.

La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey and Lt. Gary Bell were both quoted in the article saying they are excited about this new group “Unlike many cities we do not have any crime-ridden neighborhoods. We have a relatively low crime rate in La Grande,” Bell said in the story.

Additionally, The Observer recently printed a story about how understaffed the police department is. The department’s budget is not growing, despite the demands and growing regulations. The police said they are doing the best they can with what they have, but they are not able to respond to certain calls when more pressing ones are at hand. This group has the potential to help the police out with that problem.

Providing its members don’t take action against the potential criminal activity themselves.

And that’s where our hesitation lies.

The community has a right to feel safe in their own homes and in their own neighborhoods. However, it takes one incident where a situation, or a confronation, gets out of hand to make it dangerous. We’ve read about it in the news.

La Grande does not need a vigilante taking the law into their own hands. Let that stay in the hands of the professional police department who we pay to protect us. However, keep your eyes and ears open where you are and call them to come and help when there is a suspicious situation.

The Northside LG Neighborhood Watch, which is what the group is called, has created its own Facebook page and the followers are posting information about what they’re seeing in their neighborhoods and spreading information to other followers. Communication is key in a group like this.

La Grande is a safe community. The police department has worked very hard to keep it that way. This group has massive potential to benefit the community — and help the dedicated police force — and we are very excited to see it succeed.

However, leave the law enforcement to those who are trained. Call 911 when something in your neighborhood doesn’t feel right. This is no time to be a hero and get hurt. To the couple who started this group, thank you. You saw a problem and took action. We wish you luck and hope for the best.

—Cherise Kaechele, Emily Adair and Alyssa Sutton contributed to this editorial

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