DIY Law Enforcement in Cash-Strapped Oregon County

"They will not send an officer out, so we are on our own totally," says Sam Nichols, co-founder of Citizens Against Crime. CAC is a group of around 20 armed volunteers who have been conducting routine patrols in and around O'Brien, Oregon since last summer. CAC patrols "are always a minimum of two people," says Nichols, precisely because they want to avoid the kind of thing "that happened in Florida, the case where Zimmerman shot the boy."

Why are the citizens of O'Brien patrolling their own streets? Josephine County is a rural area in south western Oregon with serious budget problems. Back in 1916, the federal government bought up millions of acres of land that had been owned by the railroads. The move left 18 Oregon counties without a significant source of property tax revenue. To make up for the lost taxes, the feds began giving the Oregon counties a share of the timber revenues in 1937. The program worked until environmental regulations severely curtailed logging in Oregon. By 1998, timber revenues had dropped to just a third of what they were in 1989. Temporary federal timber subsidies filled the gap, but those subsidies were phased out last year.

This year, Josephine County slashed its public safety budget from $20 million to less than $9 million. As a result, the county was forced to release 39 prisoners, including people charged with assault, burglary and rape. Only three sheriffs patrol Josephine County, an area larger than Rhode Island, and those sheriffs only respond to life-threatening calls.

The self-reliant folks who live in Josephine County aren't likely to raise their own taxes any time soon, but lots of citizens are willing to do their part to deter criminal activity. Sam Nichols and the other members of Citizens Against Crime strap on guns, turn on flashing lights mounted on their vehicles and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Former deputy sheriff Carol Dickson maintains a Facebook page called To Catch a Thief as a kind of virtual neighborhood watch program. The page currently has more than 1600 followers.

"Some people are taking the law into their own hands, which obviously scares the heck out of me," says Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson. But because of the severity of Josephine County's budget problems, Gilbertson isn't complaining too loudly. As he puts it, "law enforcement in this community is weak at best."

For more on this topic watch Can Volunteers Protect Communities?

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  • ||

    I can just see ACLU going after this town soon enough.

  • Brandybuck||

    A quick guess before I watch the video: The crime these guys are going after are victimless.

  • Brandybuck||

    Hmmm, doesn't say. But knowing Josephine County, heart of the illegal medical marijuana crop industry, I'm suspecting it might.

  • tarran||

    Nope. Everything seemed focused on property crimes.

  • ||

    I got the notion that property crime is their biggest concern. Burglaries and such.

    I also got the feel that the sheriff doesnt like the idea of citizen patrols, he would rather a complete law enforcement vacuum.

    The entire fiasco is created guessed it....the federal government.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    So, a group of citizens, left alone by the government, are finding solutions to real problems like crime WITHOUT government interference? I'm so confused. I have been told repeatedly that the people are weak and powerless to help themselves, that government interference is always necessary to maintain civilized society.


  • ||

    Now that you put it like that.....

    The citizens are fixing a giant fuck-up created by the government and the government types dont like it much.

  • Houkt Un Fanixs||

    In Southern Oregon Citizen arrest you!

  • Raston Bot||

    "law enforcement in this community is weak at best."

    sounds like paradise. i'm being serious.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Indeed it does. It certainly is a step in the right direction. Could this be the beginnings of the fabled Libertopia? I may have to move to Oregon.

  • Adam.||

    "Some people are taking the law into their own hands, which obviously scares the heck out of me,"

    If it's not one of the King's Men, they cannot enforce the royal edicts.

  • ||

    Being from Oregon, The area in question is mainly mountain forests and high desert ranch land, with only a few thousand people spread out over hundreds of miles. This is what needs to happen in the country as a whole, citizens looking out for themselves. This is just like volunteer firemen only with weapons training.

  • Krimson||

    As a person that lives in Josephine county I can assure you that this is nothing more than a political maneuver to force land tax increases... There is money available in the CAFR's, there are significant mounts of cash that is wasted on useless beautification public projects that are of far lessor value tot he public than safety. The majority of the commissioners are from California and they have that same blackmail mentality that is found in the bankrupt state of Calif. Spend, spend, spend, and when they can[t get a tax increase forced through they blackmail the public by taking away law enforcement money and then whine that they need more taxes... WE HAVE BECOME A POLITICIANS TAX SLAVE. Before the Californians took over the state with their spend, spend, spend policies, Oregon had a thriving economy and the government never went into the RED... Now with the current party controlling everything small businesses cannot survive, the job market is crap, and we are ALWAYS IN THE RED AND they want to steal more and more of our hard earned labor only to give it away...

    Californians destroyed their state and then like locus, they came to our state and destroyed it...

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