October 21, 2006 in City

Neighborhood watched

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Joe Barrentine photo

Volunteer Sandy Brown answers the phone while she and volunteer Wilbert Dore staff the SCOPE Edgecliff office Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Edgecliff is a neighborhood that doesn’t remember how to give up.

Ten years ago, Friday night’s standoff with a gunman in a trailer park would have simply capped another week of police calls, drug deals and crimes that a lot of people wouldn’t even bother to report. Now it meant simply that a few of the neighborhood’s leaders were missing from the latest community event because they were helping police and residents up the street.

“This man is not going to ruin my party,” said Debra Kirkpatrick, a member of SCOPE Edgecliff, before a gathering to celebrate the organization’s 10th year in existence.

In a decade it has grown from seven people drawn together to expel a sex offender from a house next to their grade school to a program that’s provided a model for community policing, not just for Spokane County, but for the entire country.

“I know every neighbor on my block because of SCOPE Edgecliff,” Jeff McCullough told the crowd filling the gym at Pratt Elementary School.

That, along with confidence in crime reporting and efforts to bring law enforcement directly in the neighborhood are credited with making Edgecliff an area where people no longer draw the shades when they see something wrong.

At Thierman and Fifth, the neighbors on duty at the SCOPE station earlier this week said it has about 60 volunteers now. It takes about 30 of them to hand-deliver 1,600 neighborhood newsletters every month.

People who sign up have about a half dozen training courses to choose from. Volunteers photograph and log graffiti and try to get it cleaned up. They patrol the neighborhood and work directly with police. The office, staffed by volunteers 40 hours a week, takes 20 to 30 calls a day. They primarily help people figure out what to do if they have a problem, whether it’s junk cars or a drug house on the block.

“We just keep getting more and more support,” said Rick Scott.

Over the years, the resources available to the neighborhood have grown to include classes on parenting, family movie nights and access to computers at Pratt Elementary. Efforts from the city of Spokane Valley on up to various state and federal agencies all converge in Edgecliff, and leaders in the neighborhood have learned how to take advantage of them all.

“Really it’s kind of a wraparound service,” said Pratt Elementary Principal Paul Gannon. Three days a week, volunteers – many from SCOPE – help get kids to school as part of the Walking School Bus program. They patrol the neighborhood during the day. A volunteer helps keep kids safe around the buses, and after-school volunteers help with tutoring and after-school programs.

“They’re always looking for ways to support Pratt,” he said.

Concern for the children there started the program. Several residents, fed up with the problems growing in their neighborhood, got together in 1996 after a level 3 sex offender rented a house behind the school.

At the time, a square mile of the area had the highest property crime rate in Spokane County, Scott said.

In 1997, the neighborhood got a $137,000 grant that helped pay for then-Detective Steve Barbieri and a prosecutor to set up shop and crack down on local criminals with the help of the neighbors.

In 2002 Edgecliff became the first and only group in the county to receive a federal Weed and Seed grant.

At Friday’s celebration, Scott said one of the first clean-ups conducted with that money resulted in 120 tons of garbage being hauled out of the community.

None of the pride in what they’ve accomplished has devolved into arrogance, though. SCOPE volunteers don’t try to brush off the serious crimes that still occur in their neighborhood.

They’re frank and honest as they discuss the crimes that still plague the area. But unlike 10 years ago, leaders say, they are more than ready to keep doing something about it.


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