There's no room in the county jail for burglars and thieves. And the sheriff's department in a vast, rural corner of southwest Oregon has been reduced by budget cuts to three deputies on patrol eight hours a day, five days a week.
But people in this traditionally self-reliant section of timber country aren't about to raise taxes to put more officers on the road. Instead, some folks in Josephine County, larger than the state of Rhode Island, are taking matters into their own hands — mounting flashing lights on their trucks and strapping pistols to their hips to guard communities themselves. Others have put together a virtual neighborhood watch, using Facebook to share tips and information.
Nichols has organized a posse of about a dozen fed-up residents who have started patrolling the small community of O'Brien, which has about 750 residents.
"We call ourselves the CAC Patrol, Citizens Against Crime," he said.
Separately, a retired sheriff's deputy in a community about 10 miles away has started a Facebook page called "To Catch a Thief," an open group that has nearly 1,200 members who post reports of crimes that aren't priorities for the county sheriff's office.
"In a rural community like this, we all know each other, and we're all related," said Carol Dickson, who started the group about three months ago and posts regularly.
"People know who's doing this," she said of the property crimes around Cave Junction, a town of nearly 2,000 people about 30 miles from the county seat of Grants Pass.
"They are getting tired of it," Dickson said. "They are speaking up, and they are saying, 'Enough.'"
Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson says he's glad for the help but warns that law enforcement is dangerous work.
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