For 15 years, Edgecliff SCOPE, 522 S. Thierman Road, has been maintaining a visible presence in the neighborhood, helping to make homes and streets clean, healthy and safe for everyone.
It started in 1996, when the neighborhood was experiencing a lot of drug activity. Neighbors banded together at SCOPE, or Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort, and started neighborhood watches, cleaning up garbage from their streets, removing and recording graffiti and driving around the neighborhood at night, looking for suspicious behavior.
SCOPE Director Rick Scott, who started his career with the organization at Edgecliff, said in the first few years of the office’s existence, the crime rate dropped by half.
“It’s lower than a lot of places in the county,” Scott said.
The county’s counterpart to Spokane’s Community Oriented Policing Services, SCOPE has about 600 volunteers countywide. Scott said he recently attended a training conference and members of community policing organizations from larger regions such as Portland or Seattle didn’t have as many volunteers as SCOPE does.
“That’s huge,” Scott said. “We’re pretty proud of that.”
At Edgecliff, the tight-knit group of about 40 volunteers has a number of events throughout the year to stay visible in the community, which experts say deters crime.
Volunteer Bill Dore heads up the Operation Family ID Program, which fingerprints and photographs kids in case of the unthinkable happening and they go missing. Dore said the information is entered into the sheriff’s department’s system so an Amber Alert can be issued as soon as possible.
Although many parents update this information yearly, Dore added that this program isn’t just for kids.
“We’ll take anybody’s picture,” he said. They have entered information on Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, other seniors, many children and everyone in between.
Volunteer Ed Kirsch turns 90 this month, but that doesn’t keep him from showing up at the SCOPE office more often than he’s scheduled. He’s been volunteering for 13 years and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
“It’s my neighborhood,” he said. “I like to do against the criminals what I can.”
Kirsch said he gets involved with the Citizens on Patrol Program, which pairs volunteers to drive through the neighborhood looking for suspicious activity. When they see something going on, they call the police.
“We say SCOPE, seems like they jump,” Kirsch said about the quick responses they receive.
Becky Boyington has been volunteering at Edgecliff for 14 years. She started organizing free family friendly movies at the Edgecliff Neighborhood Center (site of the former Pratt Elementary School) on Thursday evenings at dusk during the month of August. The first movie this summer will be Aug. 4, and visitors are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs.
Scott said the loss of Pratt Elementary School, which closed in the spring of 2007, was a blow to the SCOPE office, since it provided them with a good connection with neighborhood children. Scott used to lead students to and from school through the office’s Walking School Bus Program and the office also sponsored after-school activities. The movies are a good way to meet with the children and let them know about the office.
“This is a McGruff House, too,” said Edgecliff SCOPE President Claudette Mills. If a child is walking through the neighborhood and feels scared of someone – either a stranger, a bully or anyone else – they can come to the SCOPE office where the volunteers will keep them safe and make emergency phone calls.
The office is also in the process of signing up neighborhood kids for free swim passes. Volunteer Bob Grinnell said they will get as many passes as needed.
Coming up this summer, the SCOPE office will participate in the National Night Out for Crime on Aug. 2. Anyone wishing to hold neighborhood block parties should register with SCOPE, and they will receive visits from volunteers.
The Walk for Success event scheduled Aug. 20 will include a parade, a classic car show and more at Park Place.
But before all that, the office will celebrate its 15th birthday on July 13. There will be cake and ice cream served from 1 to 5 p.m.
“We really stay pretty busy, actually,” Mills said. “We have the best SCOPE station ever.”