University SCOPE keeps watchful eye on the neighborhood
At the University SCOPE (Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort), 10621 E. 15th Ave., neighbors can find information about what to do if there is an abandoned vehicle in their area. They can find out what to do about graffiti that shows up on their buildings. They can learn about forming their own Neighborhood Watch and they can register their children with Operation Family ID.
It’s a one-stop shop for anyone looking to make their community safer.
Dick Ott, president of the station, said the current problems include residents missing items from their yards or their vehicles.
“People should learn not to leave valuables sitting in the front seat of their cars,” Ott said.
The University SCOPE station has been around since 1995 – originating at the old University High School. It has about 25 active members, including Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey.
“SCOPE is so vital to the connection between the community and the Sheriff’s Office,” Towey said.
The mayor said the volunteers help law enforcement when there is a car accident, fire or emergency that requires directing traffic away from the area. Earlier this month, during his usual two-day rotation, he went out three times to direct traffic. He said he usually serves the station about two days a month.
“I seem to always sign up when they are busy,” he joked.
He has been a volunteer with the program for about 11 years. When he ran for the city council, he took a look at his schedule to see if it was still possible to participate.
The group stays busy during the year. In July, the group participated in its only fundraiser of the year, handing out refreshments at the Sprague rest stop on Interstate 90. They put up a new sign on the building last month and plan to repaint it this month with the help of Boy Scouts. They also held an ice cream social during the National Night Out Against Crime on Aug. 2.
Ott said his group works a lot with eradicating graffiti in the neighborhood. He said removing the tags within the first 24 hour is key – if residents wait, more graffiti will pop up in a couple of weeks.
He said the best way to let the SCOPE station know about a graffiti problem is to take a picture of it and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The advent of smartphones with cameras built in has helped speed up the process of finding the tags.
Abandoned vehicles also seem to be a problem in the area.
“It’s all complaint driven,” Ott said of removing abandoned vehicles.
His group usually goes out to check on these vehicles twice a week and unless the owner has made other arrangements with authorities, “We tow it,” he said. That can get pretty expensive for the owner. Not only is there a fine of $125 for an unattended vehicle, there is also a $177 towing fee and the owner is responsible for storage fees. Ott said most of the time, the vehicle ends up sold in an auction.
Ott said he finds his work with the station rewarding and thinks others would, too.
“We do need more people,” he said. “Well, I should say that we do need more active people.”