In response to a growing problem with burglaries, Spokane Valley church and community oriented policing leaders have launched a combined neighborhood watch effort.
Organizers sent letters to 69 Valley churches, announcing the program that pairs Valley churches with the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort (SCOPE).
More than 15 churches have already expressed interest in the partnership. The Rev. Joe Farrow, Valley Nazarene Church Pastor, said preliminary response has been good.
An informational meeting is scheduled May 15. Volunteer training begins May 25.
“By the first part of June, we’ll have people (patroling) in their cars,” said Deanna Hormann, a member of the SCOPE-church partnership committee and co-chairwoman of SCOPE CV.
Three Valley churches were burglarized in a three-day period in early November, marking the beginning of a string of burglaries.
About 20 churches have been burglarized across the county since, half of them Valley churches.
Burglars usually take computer, stereo and public address equipment.
The Sheriff’s Department reported that Valley Assembly of God Church, 15618 E. Broadway, broken into March 26, was the latest Valley church burglarized.
Church leaders began working with SCOPE volunteers about a month ago. Now more than 50 churches have expressed interest in the partnership.
The immediate focus will be on citizen patrols of churches and surrounding neighborhoods.
“If each church had a patrol every night, imagine the coverage,” said Terry Carver, SCOPE program manager.
As the program continues, church volunteers could join other SCOPE programs, such as fingerprint taking, gang graffiti identification and school patrols.
Many churches cannot afford the same security businesses have, sheriff’s detectives say. Opening their buildings to a variety of groups also makes churches vulnerable, they say.
Church administrators will work with the Sheriff’s Department to improve lighting and other security measures around their buildings.
“What we’re trying to do is reach out and return the community to the proper people,” Farrow said.