In cash-strapped Josephine County Oregon, America’s debt and austerity hysteria has finally resulted in armed gangs, roaming the streets. This is of course, utter hyperbole, however for this small, rural, largely conservative county in the Pacific Northwest, the ripple effects of America’s revenue and resource crises is causing some drastic cuts with some drastic results.
The North Valley Community Watch (NVCW,) a private volunteer public safety group in northern Josephine County, has announced plans to attempt to “fill the gaps” left in law enforcement, which have come about as a result of recent budget cuts related to the ongoing deficit reduction. The group, of which many of it’s members perform their self assumed law enforcement support roles armed, are expanding on the duties more typically performed by community watch organizations, by actively responding to calls as police might normally.
Following the end to federal subsidies which sought to promote timber harvesting while balancing the costs derived from their own environmental regulations, the largely rural Josephine County found itself facing a revenue crisis similar to many going on throughout the nation. After a vote seeking to raise revenues failed, the Sheriff’s office released as statement announcing that it would only be able to respond to “life threatening situations” and went on to advise that those who feared they were in danger to consider relocating.
In response, former Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Selig, who lost his position as a result of the cuts, formed the NVCW with friend Pete Scaglioni. In addition to the standard patrols and flier circulations that community watch groups are know for however, Selig and Scaglioni are looking now to take neighborhood watch duties to the next level by creating a “response team” of, sometimes armed, civilian first responders to respond to burglaries and other suspected crimes.
While the effort of private citizens to assume public duties in the absence of sworn law enforcement personnel is admirable, many, including County Commissioner Keith Heck, are worried that the forming of private posses like these could lead to “aggressive” behavior and dangerous situations. In an interview with Fox News, Heck expressed his doubts as to the effectiveness of such efforts, saying,
These things seem good on the PR side, but fail a little in the reality side.
With the recent (and apparently ongoing train wreck) story of George Zimmerman still fresh in the public’s mind, support for armed, private vigilante groups has been a complicated matter at best, and a multi-faceted national embarrassment at worst. But as the rising tides of fiscal austerity continue to wash over our once robust public services, many see few options in the era of spending cuts and tightened belts.
The situation surrounding both the Sheriff’s office budget cuts and the hotly debated tax increase proposals has left many in the area so desperate for ideas, the matters have even been handed off to high school debate teams in the hopes of deriving solutions. Thus far, none have been finalized.