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Banks Neighborhood Watch meeting draws crowd

Thefts and park problems top list of worries brought to deputy by citizens


Nearly 50 people attended the first Banks Neighborhood Watch meeting last week organized by concerned citizens after recent thefts.

The discussion Thursday, Nov. 13, aired frustrations about loitering and littering in Greenville City Park, and what many feel is an upsurge in stealing.

Direct communication helped dispel rumors and exaggerations about Banks crime, but also enlightened police about legitimate local concerns.

While officers haven’t noticed a spike in crime, local residents are under the impression it’s on the rise.

In October, a car was stolen and two guns were stolen from another vehicle. On Nov. 2, there was a rash of thefts from unlocked vehicles and an attempted home break-in, crimes for which deputies recently arrested Nikita Polushkin.

Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Hanlon said the crime in Banks is still pretty low compared to towns such as Aloha and Beaverton, and home burglaries and violent crimes are rare. But many meeting attendees admitted to not reporting crime they’ve experienced first-hand or witnessed. Karen Christensen, for example, hasn’t reported her son’s three stolen bikes.

Much of the conversation at the meeting surrounded livability concerns, including the way young people loiter, cuss, fight, vandalize, smoke and present an “attitude of intimidation” in Greenville City Park. Several mothers at the meeting said they were not comfortable taking their kids there.

The park is the only place for young people in Banks to hang out, many attendees agreed, so it’s become a central location for graffiti, vandalism and drinking.

Hanlon said he — and other deputies who provide an additional 10 hours a week of patrol in Banks — don’t receive that many calls about problems in the park.

And not all of the activity at the park is criminal. While Banks council members are currently mulling over whether to make smoking in the park illegal, it is currently legal.

The park does close at 10 p.m., however, a rule that seems to be violated frequently, based on several complaints at the meeting about noise late at night and in the early morning near the park’s gazebo.

One woman suggested talking to the city council about posting “no loitering” and “no littering” signs.

Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker said she is supportive of the watch group and is happy to help.

Several attendees voiced concerns about what looks like more drug dealing in the park. But drug deals happen so fast, they said, they aren’t sure if they should call after they’re over.

Hanlon encouraged them to report any suspicious activity. In true Neighborhood Watch fashion, a few attendees agreed to start writing down license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles.

Hanlon encourages anyone who is concerned to turn in their notes to him to decipher. “Information is information,” he said, and he’s happy to have it.

One man said he was concerned a Neighborhood Watch group would cause “finger-pointing” and would lead to a lot of “crying wolf.” But Hanlon assured attendees those concerns shouldn’t hinder people from making calls to Washington County’s non-emergency line as long as they have legitimate concerns.

“A lot of things happen and we don’t hear about it until much later,” Hanlon said. “We need to know about these things; we’ve got to have that feedback to track things. You guys are our eyes and ears.”

The philosophy of Neighborhood Watch is already taking effect. Christensen said Hanlon told her to spread the word last week that officers were looking for a man with a warrant for his arrest they believed to be in Banks.

That’s one of the main ideas behind a watch group, Hanlon said at the meeting, “people become more aware.”

“I think the meeting went well overall,” said Christensen, who organized it. “People have been holding a lot in and everyone had a lot to say.”

Christensen will now be contacting a Washington County Crime Prevention Specialist who will help her with the next organizing steps.

“We need to decide we want to work together as a community, to come together and watch out for each other,” Christensen said. She thinks her neighbors are all agreed about crime in Banks: “We want to stop it before it gets out of hand.”

The non-emergency number is 503-629-0111. Those who could not attend the meeting but are interested can email karen@superiorfence.com.

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