Apparent drug activity prompted River Heights neighbors to band together

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - West Linn Police Community Service Officer Peggy Jones stopped by a River Heights area home last week to discuss forming a neighborhood watch group.It could have been mistaken for a simple cocktail party.

The front door was left open, and guests filed into a kitchen area stocked with glasses of wine and various appetizers. Conversations buzzed, punctuated by laughter and friendly introductions.

But the guests weren’t there to socialize, and that was made clear when West Linn Police Community Service Officer Peggy Jones stood at the front of the living room and asked for everyone’s attention.

The neighbors in the River Heights area, just north of Fields Bridge Park, were gathered at the home of Melissa Taylor to discuss the possibility of creating a neighborhood watch program in light of recent suspicious — and possibly criminal — activity in the area.

“We have a lot of us that live in this end of the neighborhood and have noticed a lot of things that are concerning,” Taylor said. “We finally decided it would be nice to get more people in the neighborhood together so more of us do know (about it) ... this is about keeping our neighborhood the nice place that we all want to live in.”

The problem, according to Taylor, began last summer, when she and her husband, Barry, noticed apparent drug activity that appeared to be centralized in a home down the street.

The police have made several stops in the neighborhood since then, most recently May 16, when a familiar suspicious car was parked outside of the Taylors’ home.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Residents concerned about recent drug and police activity listened intently to Jones' presentation about the benefits of neighborhood watch groups.

Though she appreciated the police efforts to help, Taylor found herself searching for more support. When she asked around the neighborhood, she found that other residents had stories of their own and were just as disturbed about the police activity in what was otherwise a typically tranquil West Linn neighborhood.

“The more I started talking to different people, they would say ‘I noticed this ... someone else noticed this,’ Taylor said. “No one’s connecting the dots and so the (police) calls aren’t getting made.”

Taylor hoped to change that by forming the neighborhood watch group, and nearly 20 residents showed up last Wednesday to hear what Jones had to say about the matter.

“You know what’s normal in your area,” Jones said. “I know what’s normal in my areas, because I see it all the time, and if it changes a bit I go, ‘What’s going on?’

In those instances, Jones said, it is imperative to call the police dispatch phone number — even if nothing comes of it.

“It may be nothing, but that’s for police to decide,” Jones said. “Some things that seem very uneventful or unimportant to us might be the piece the police are looking for because that finally seals the deal for them.”

A neighborhood watch would prompt those calls to come in more frequently, and from a more organized source. Beyond acquiring “neighborhood watch” yard signs, Jones also encouraged the residents to nominate block captains and develop a “tree of information” — email addresses, phone numbers, occupations, even vacation dates.

“Share what you’re comfortable with,” Jones said. “But the more you get to know people, the more you can observe.”

It didn’t take much convincing for attendees to sign up after Jones’ presentation ended, though both Melissa and Barry Taylor took pains to emphasize this was not some sort of “witch hunt.”

“We don’t want — for a lot of reasons — just to go over stories bashing people,” Melissa Taylor said. “We want to use it as something positive, and not even for this set of circumstances. It’s just nice to have people a little more connected and in contact, know a little bit of who people are and how to get ahold of each other if they see something.”

By Patrick Malee
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by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Resident Melissa Taylor helped organize the first meeting last week, and passed out a sign up sheet afterward.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Neighbors were eager to sign up for the neighborhood watch, which Taylor painted as a positive effort to better connect with the neighborhood and keep it safe.

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