Citizen volunteers patrol trailheads, parking lots to deter crime

As summer hits, authorities expect to see an uptick in car break-ins and thefts at trailheads and state parks in the Columbia River Gorge and National Scenic Area.

People visiting the Gorge are asked to leave their valuables at home or store them in a secure place, and lock the car doors before they go off on a hike.

Tourists who are traveling with packed cars should also be extra cautious, and leave valuables at their hotel or place of stay, said authorities who met Wednesday, July 2, for a public safety meeting in Corbett.

Corbett's Citizen Patrol, made up of volunteers trained by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, will be on the look out for thieves while making their rounds in a marked patrol car through Gorge parking lots and along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

According to the Sheriff's crime log, in June there were at least 20 break-ins at popular Gorge attractions including 1000 Acres, Angel's Rest, Dabney State Park, Multnomah Falls, Oneonta Falls, Rooster Rock State Park and Vista House.

"We will see an increase in activity as far as break-ins and car prowls at trailheads and at state parks," said Ron Cannon, a Citizen Patrol volunteer.

In June, break-ins occurred on weekdays and weekends.

Cannon said thieves, working in pairs or groups, often will linger in parking lots until they see an opportunity to quickly smash a car window and take whatever they can off the seat.

This is why, said Kevin Price, district manager at Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, it is important that people do not leave valuables-- purses, credit cards, smartphones-- in plain sight.

The goal of Citizen Patrol, made known by their florescent orange and yellow vests, is to deter criminal activity by acting as a visible presence in the community.

They also act as eye and ears for the Sheriff's deputies serving in the Gorge area.

Volunteers are trained in parking enforcement, patrol tactics, interactions with the mentally ill, trauma prevention and disaster preparedness.

Cannon said people can report a break-in or suspicious behavior by calling the Multnomah County Sheriff Office's non-emergency number, 503-823-3333.

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