Block party gathers to fight crime

A Hood River neighborhood is fighting crime by firing up the barbecue grill.

Citizens and business owners in the Heights commercial core and surrounding residential areas are invited to meet each other at a Block Party on July 26. Although the time for the event has not yet been set (flyers will be posted), the Hood River City Police Department has agreed to cordon off Pine Street between 10th and 11th streets for the gathering.

Party organizers are hopeful that they can form a better network in the neighborhood to keep watch over properties and share information about suspicious activities.

On Tuesday, Community Police Officer Aaron Jubitz assured about 18 citizens of “Zone 9” that taking a proactive stand against crime could significantly lessen illegal activities.

“A lot of times just getting to know your neighbor and keeping an eye out for each other will greatly reduce the level of crime in your area,” Jubitz said.

The July 9 meeting over problems in Zone 9 was the first in a series of forums scheduled for Hood River to address crime in 10 zones mapped out under the new Community Policing Program. Currently Zone 9 is tied for first place with Zone 2, encompassing the downtown area, in overall incidents. Statistics compiled by Jubitz show that 265 crimes were committed in that sector of the Heights within the past two years, with theft and criminal mischief the two most commonly reported problems.

Even with its 16 percent overall ranking, resident Marty Knowles said the crime rate in Zone 9 seems almost negligible compared to that of neighborhoods in major cities throughout the United States.

“I guess I was surprised to learn that we’re in a ‘hot spot’,” said Knowles.

However, he and other citizens expressed concern about the recent rash of car prowls throughout the Heights and wanted to take steps to stop the problem. They agreed that better lighting on homes and vehicles would be an effective deterrent since it would increase visibility — and the chances of being caught — for perpetrators.

At the meeting, citizens also pointed out that, in addition to the crimes compiled by Jubitz, there were also problems in their area with dogs running loose, speeding cars and juveniles violating the state curfew law.

Jubitz said that most thefts occur throughout the city between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and all citizens should report unusual occurrences immediately to increase the odds of catching suspects. He said even with budget constraints that may limit manpower, city officers are trying for a three minute response time to all calls for help.

“A lot of the people who are your problem we already know so it only takes a little info for us to stop them and have a chat,” said Jubitz.

On Thursday, Jubitz met with citizens of Zone 10, second lowest in crime during the past two years at 7 percent. However, he said citizens were also concerned that 38 of the reported 116 crimes involved theft, followed by 13 incidents of criminal mischief. Zone 10 encompasses the Heights neighborhood surrounding the Hood River Shopping Center.

He said all information gathered at the meetings which will now take place bi-weekly for about the next month will be gleaned for the top five common concerns. Once these are identified, Jubitz said the department will work with citizens to come up with inexpensive solutions to overcome these problems.

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