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Washington Voices

North Hill COPS shop runs on wheels

Thu., Aug. 25, 2011

Ruth Snyder, a volunteer with COPS North Hill, sits behind the wheel of the COPS mobile unit. (Pia Hallenberg)
Ruth Snyder, a volunteer with COPS North Hill, sits behind the wheel of the COPS mobile unit. (Pia Hallenberg)

Volunteers work out of a converted van

If neighbors don’t come to COPS, then COPS will come to them, and no, it’s nothing like the TV show.

It’s not well-known that Spokane Community Oriented Policing Services has a mobile unit. The little white van is full of fliers and information; it’s actually very much like a COPS shop except it is on wheels.

“We put it in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” said Ruth Snyder, a volunteer who helps keep track of the van’s schedule. “It’s been at Bloomsday twice, and it’s always out on Night Out Against Crime.”

The van has also been at Spokane Parkways, at Block Watch parties, church functions and events at Fairchild Air Force Base.

“It’s getting harder for us to take the van to these events, because they all charge something,” Snyder said. “We don’t have the capital for a fee.”

The last community event the van visited was the Garland Street Fair.

“We got 70 children registered in the Child ID program at the fair; it was great,” Snyder said.

When the van is at a community event it also generates new volunteers.

“Often times people ask us to come and fix things, but with the van they actually ask about how to volunteer,” Snyder said.

The van gets out about once a month while the weather is nice.

It could potentially get out a lot more often – any COPS shop can borrow it.

“We could do other things to make the van more visible,” Snyder said. “It could be at school openings. I always thought that would make sense.”

The van is the official home of North Hill COPS, which covers the North Hill Neighborhood Council area and began as a Neighborhood Observation Patrol in the mid-’90s. As the observation patrol and Block Watch programs grew, volunteers began looking for a good location for a COPS shop.

Coincidentally, that’s when the van was retired from a library district.

North Hill volunteers fixed up the van with countertops and cabinets, and stopped looking for a brick-and-mortar location. The group keeps a small office and a phone at Neva-Woods COPS, which is also where they meet.

“We do as much as we can with the people we have,” Snyder said. “If we had a few more volunteers here at North Hill we could do a lot more with the van.”

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