Friday, December 27, 2013

No Sheriffs, No Problem. Citizens are the Law in Oregon County

Josephine County residents take law into their own hands after having their sheriffs department cut to a minimal force

December 27, 2013
Andrew V Pontbriand

The citizens of an Oregon County decided a Federal Funds cut would not be enough to allow a likely crime-wave after having their sheriffs department cut down to only a few sheriffs open 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. This comes after a $7.5 million dollar shortfall, and a voted down tax levy to make up for the loss.

In Josephine County, Oregon; 70% of the land is owed by the Federal Government, and the Timber Subsidies kept the money flowing for years. However, when the Feds stopped the funding, the County ended up with a huge problem.

In May of 2012, county officials scrambled to pass a tax levy to make up for the shortfall,but residents voted it down. As a result the major crimes unit closed, dozens of prisoners were released from the county jail and the department reduced operations to Monday-Friday, eight hours a day. The Sheriffs Department then issued a notice saying the department would only be responding to calls they deemed to be "life-threatening situations".

This was all unacceptable to a man named Ken Selig, who was the longest serving officer of all three agencies. Ken Selig told that he felt compelled to step up and protect his community.

“Who else is going to protect you when your government can't?” Selig said.

Selig and his buddies started the North Valley Community Watch, which would set up to protect citizens and respond to mostly non-violent crimes, like property crimes. This is one of a dozen of newly formed groups that have been formed to protect the rural community.

According to the original statement issued by the Sheriffs Department, they even advised residents who felt their life was in danger, to relocate - "the Sheriff's Office regretfully advises that, if you know you are in a potentially volatile situation (for example, you are a protected person in a restraining order that you believe the respondent may violate), you may want to consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services,” the Statement read.

The watch group, now meets once a month and currently has about 100 members, with a response team of 12 members. The response team will respond to non-life threatening calls, and says they do carry legal firearms, but have never fired a shot.

“We believe responsible citizens doing responsible things make it hard for criminals to do irresponsible things,” Selig said.

Josephine County Commissioner Keith Heck did not seem so optimistic. Heck said the county has tried to live within the bounds of its fiscal realities, but citizens need to realize the options for paying for law enforcement are limited. "The county coffers are at the bottom of the barrel," he said.

Heck did state that he does support community watch groups, but feels that this sort of citizen vigilance could escalate violence, and points to the George Zimmerman case as evidence.

“These things seem good on the PR side but fail a little in the reality side,” Heck said. “There is this little shimmer out there of some giant Santa that is going to come and drop all this money on us because we are well-meaning folks,” he said. “The sleigh is broken, the deer are dead, it’s not going to happen. We have to figure out how we are going to solve this problem.”

With Nation-wide fiscal shortfalls, and federal budget cuts now affecting local communities, these sort of citizen based watch groups are becoming more and more popular. After all, criminals take an armed citizen just as serious as a police officer in a given situation.

Andrew Pontbriand is an activist, researcher, radio show host, Contributor at Activist Post, and Founder of  The Resistance Journals. Like his Facebook Page here