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Cave Junction To Conduct Nighttime Policing With Security Cameras, Volunteers

Photo via unsplash.com
The city of Cave Junction plans to install security cameras on light poles around the downtown area, which will be monitored by a neighborhood watch group.

A rural Josephine County town plans to make up for the lack of police officers by installing security cameras that will be monitored by volunteers.

Sheriff’s deputies patrol Cave Junction — a rural city with nearly 2,000 people — during the day, but the city doesn’t have any patrols at night. If someone calls 9-1-1 in the middle of the night, they’ll likely have to wait at least 45 minutes before a state trooper shows up.

The city instead has a group of volunteers, called CJ Patrol, that patrols the city at night. City recorder Rebecca Patton says the city plans to install security cameras in public spaces so these volunteers can have more eyes on the streets.

“They could spend more time in the residential areas patrolling and making sure no one’s walking around and breaking into windows,” Patton says.

The cameras will be installed on city-owned street lights in parts of downtown.

CJ Patrol volunteers aren’t formally trained and don’t receive background checks. Still, Patton says she might do “some sort of background check” before giving volunteers access to public security cameras.

The group has served as a sort of neighborhood watch for the city for years. Patton says they classify “hardcore criminals” simply by looks.

“They can identify them by the way that they dress, because they have a certain apparel that they wear all the time, or the way they walk,” Patton says. “Sometimes they carry things all the time, it could be something as simple as a skateboard. They have learned how to identify these people very, very quickly, then they know how to respond.”

CJ Patrol didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Josephine County voters have repeatedly turned down ballot measures that would have raised taxes for public agencies like firefighters and sheriff’s deputies. Lack of funding has caused the county to become reliant on private companies for fire protection and led to major staffing cuts at the Josephine County Sheriff’s office.

“Until we start paying a little bit more for our services, we’re going to get what we pay for,” Patton says.

After the county sold one of its properties in 2017, it gave $105,000 to Cave Junction. The city will use part of those funds on security cameras and better lighting in downtown. It will also implement a 3-to-1 matching grants program to provide additional security cameras and lights to small downtown businesses.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.