|An old police car has been parked on the|
highway through O'Brien since the
sheriff's budget has been cut. (AP)
O'Brien sits in Josephine County, a county which recently lost $12 million in federal timber subsidies. The jail, sheriff's patrols, prosecutors, probation officers and juvenile programs have all been drastically cut. The jail can house 69 inmates -- so few that recently small-time offenders have been let loose only to be repeatedly picked up for new crimes. In O'Brien, "We all know each other, and we're all related," said Carol Dickson, who helped to start the CAC about three months ago and posts regularly. "People know who's doing this," she said of recent spate of property crime in the area. "They are getting tired of it. They are speaking up, and they are saying, 'Enough.'"
The local police think the citizens involved are smart about this venture, that it's not vigilantism and that everyone understand the dangers. But policing expert Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at New York University, says neighborhood watch efforts can turn into problems when volunteers "decide that instead of supplementing law enforcement, they are going to replace law enforcement." He told AP that "people drawn to this sort of thing are the kinds of personalities more likely to take it too far." However, Nichols says what his group is doing is "not vigilantism at all. If it was, we would have taken care of a couple of problems a long time ago. Because we knew who they were, and where they lived."
The group is earning its keep. Members have reported a wildfire and a break-in since their watch began. The police log in the Grants Pass Daily Courier shows five thefts or burglaries in O'Brien from January through July, but none since August. (Read more)