The crowd attending Sheriff Rodd Clark's town hall meeting held in Powell Butte was small, but maybe that is because residents in that area are feeling very secure.
>Held at the Powell Butte School, attendance was low - probably, Sheriff Clark said, because people are feeling safe in their neighborhood
Clark remembered a huge turn-out for the first of his annual town hall meetings held four years ago. Each year since, the number of people coming to the Powell Butte meeting has dwindled.
One reason could be the success of the Crook County Sheriff's community police program. Deputy Alec Brown has, since the start of the program, become a familiar face to most of those living in Powell Butte.
"I used to just wave as I drove by, but now I often stop and talk with people. Really get to know them and they get to know me," he said.
It could be that face-to-face contact or it might be the two neighborhood watch programs that Brown started. Whatever, few people brought their concerns or questions to Monday evening's session.
"I invited people to come to a meeting to discuss a neighborhood watch," Brown remembered. "More than 40 people showed up."
After talking about the benefits of such a program, each person was given a pocket-sized booklet that included a series of lines to jot down the kind of information needed to identify a vehicle or a person. Now, Brown said, when a resident sees a suspicious person or a car that doesn't belong, the information can be marked down and given to the sheriff's office when they call in to report it. And the residents do call and make reports. That is why, Brown believes, the crime rate in the area is down.
At the present time, Brown said, referring to a prepared list, there are six unsolved crimes in that area. Four are thefts and two are criminal mischief. The deputy said they have identified a suspect in the four cases, and are waiting for fingerprint tests and lab results before making their arrest. The suspect, he explained, has been arrested on similar charges in another jurisdiction. "He admitted to committing four burglaries in the Powell Butte area, but wouldn't specify where he committed them."
Other good news from the area Brown covers that he could report on involved responses to citizen complaints. These range from high-growing weeds becoming a hazard to traffic at the intersection of Highway 371 and Shumway Road, "ODOT had a crew out there the next day, mowing the weeds and grass," Brown said.
Even potholes such as those on Huston Lake Road, "Roadmaster Norm Thompson had a crew take care of those the next day, too."
Speeders on Hahlen Road is a problem that the deputy can't deal with, though. Apparently some people like to speed along the gravel road, raising dust. Brown said because it is a private road, he can't do anything about that. A road district has been formed by those living along that road, however, and once the district acts that situation might change.
Until recently, traffic on Highway 126 by the school was the source of most complaints, Brown said. Now, thanks to three agencies working together, things have changed. "Most of the credit goes to the Crook County School District for paying for the flashing lights warning people of the school zone speed limit," Brown said. "And the county road department for putting up the signs and ODOT for agreeing to pay the electric bill for the light."
Since the flashing lights and signs have gone up, people have slowed down and the number of complaints have dropped.
Monday's town hall meeting was the first of four scheduled for this week. Tonight, Sheriff Clark and the deputy responsible for the Paulina/Post area will meet with residents at the Paulina School. Wednesday evening the meeting moves to the Ochoco West Community Hall and Thursday to the county library. All public meetings begin at 6 p.m. and everyone with questions or concerns to share with Clark and his deputies are urged to attend.