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Estates residents want to form 'citizens' patrol,' despite officials' wishes

After three nocturnal sprees of vandalism and graffiti on the houses that comprise The Estates Golf & Country Club retirement community, at least one resident wants to take a more active role in combatting the activity.

However, Estates officials, for their part, would rather he didn’t.

Jim Frogge, an Estates resident, was affected by the latest series of attacks that occurred sometime during the night of April 2, though his home was spared. Frogge was actually named, along with another local man, in a typewritten note police found at several of the crime scenes that claimed the vandalism was perpetrated by city employees in response to complaints by Estates residents related to the Interstate 5 Interchange Project.

Frogge categorically denied any knowledge of or involvement in the crimes. But he would like to see those who are responsible brought to justice, and he’s willing to help, if he can.

To that end, he has proposed the formation of a “citizens’ patrol” in the Estates community. Frogge, who has a background in private security and a current license through the state as an unarmed security professional, said the idea is to have volunteers patrolling the neighborhood at night and calling Woodburn police if they observe illegal or suspicious activity.

“The idea is simply to observe and report,” he said. “You support the police department by being observers.”

Frogge said he is modeling his proposal on the Citizen Volunteers in Policing Program in Gresham, and that he hopes to collaborate with Woodburn police. He also said he already has a half-dozen residents who are interested in participating.

But the idea makes Estates officials nervous.

“He can drive the streets if he wants to,” Sharon Schaub, Estates general manager, said of Frogge. “But this has not been suggested or approved by the board of directors.”

She said there is a tangible liability of having untrained volunteers regularly patrolling their neighborhoods on the lookout for criminals.

“If we wanted to do that, we would hire a company that is bonded and insured and trained,” she said. “The police department agrees that we should not encourage individuals going out and surveilling at night on their own. It’s sort of asking for trouble.”

Woodburn Police Captain Jason Alexander echoed her sentiments. While he noted that residents should certainly keep their eyes peeled (“You’re the one who knows who belongs in your neighborhood and who doesn’t, because you live there.”), he agreed that “patrolling” is best left up to law enforcement.

“We don’t advocate anybody to go out and patrol the streets,” he said. “It could be potentially dangerous. You never know what you’re going to come across.”

Frogge stressed that his volunteers would have to follow strict guidelines, expressly prohibiting contact with a potential subject. He said the idea would be to get a visual description — and a license plate number if a vehicle is involved — and call the police.

“We don’t want people trying to be a cop,” he said. “You’re not an officer; you’re just another pair of eyes. That’s what you’re there for.”

He also said that risky vigilantism is exactly what his idea is trying to avoid. He said the repeated attacks have rattled residents — some of whom have expressed to him a desire to take matters into their own hands.

“What I’m afraid of happening, if we can’t put something together, is one of the residents who thinks he’s still 20 years old going out after someone and getting attacked and hurt because he’s not as young as he used to be,” he said.

On this point, Schaub was in agreement, in that she and the board favor less confrontational solutions. She said The Estates is making progress with its neighborhood watch program, which was established following the first large-scale vandalism incident last summer. She said management is encouraging residents to take steps like leaving their exterior lights on throughout the evening and informing their neighborhood watch captain when they go on vacation.

She also said that a meeting for residents will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday at The Estates auditorium, which will center around a discussion on security within the community.