July 21, 2011 in Washington Voices

Neva-Wood COPS volunteers encounter diverse problems

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Spokane Police officer Sandi McIntrye, left, pays a short visit to the Nevada-Lidgerwood COPS front desk volunteer, Patty Boyce, July 18, 2011. McIntyre is the Neighborhood Resource Officer for the cop shop.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Neva-Wood COPS

At a glance

Location: 4705 N. Addison St.

Phone: (509) 625-3353

Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Current volunteers: 20 who are very active – many more on standby.

Most frequent inquiries: Neighbor complaints over barking dogs, drug houses or other disruptive behavior.

Biggest need: Volunteers who can work the front desk.

Also home to: COPS North Hill mobile unit (see story later this summer).

Register for Night Out events

Neighborhoods throughout Spokane County will gather on Aug. 2 between 5 and 9 p.m. for the 28th annual National Night Out Against Crime.

Residents are invited to keep watch over their neighborhoods during the annual event and enjoy community organized potlucks, barbecues, ice cream socials and safety fairs. Neighborhood groups can register their events, and local agencies such as law enforcement, fire departments, SCOPE and other public officials will visit neighborhood gatherings throughout the evening.

National Night Out is designed to raise awareness of crime and drug prevention; generate support for local anti-crime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and are fighting back. The event is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.

To register neighborhood events in Spokane County, call Simone Ramel, neighborhood watch coordinator at (509) 477-3305 or email neighborhoodwatch@spokanesheriff.org. For events in the city of Spokane, call Maurece Vulcano at (509) 835-4592. For more information, visit www.national nightout.org or www.nationaltownwatch.org.

COPS shops are located in many different settings and buildings. There is one at Spokane Community College, there is another one at Lewis and Clark High School, and then there’s Nevada Lidgerwood COPS. Located in what used to be two single-family homes just east of NorthTown Mall, Neva-Wood COPS, as it is called, shares a home with the Nevada Lidgerwood Neighborhood Council in a building owned by the city of Spokane.

“Well, the neighborhood council got here first,” said Barb Hedlund, chair of the board of Neva-Wood COPS. “There used to be two smaller houses and they got them put together, and then we moved in.”

COPS North Hill mobile unit – a remodeled library van that goes to community events representing COPS – is also based at Neva-Wood COPS.

“It can get kind of busy here,” Hedlund said on a Monday morning while phones were ringing and volunteers cleaned the office.

Neva-Wood COPS covers the area bounded by Division Street to the west, Perry Street to the east, Euclid Avenue to the south and Hawthorne Road to the north.

“It’s a very diverse area,” said Hedlund. “We have apartment complexes, new houses, old houses, businesses and residents that are both very young and very old.”

One successful program is the Block Watch program, which counts about 60 volunteer block coordinators. On Aug. 2, National Night Out Against Crime, most of the block watches have some activity going on.

“We don’t do a big event here at the shop for Night Out Against Crime, but we try to make it to all the block parties,” said Hedlund.

Among shop volunteers are criminal justice students from Whitworth University and Spokane Community College. William Colleran is an SCC student who plans to become a parole officer.

“I live in the neighborhood and drive by the shop all the time, so I decided to volunteer here,” said Colleran. “I was surprised by the number of different issues that get brought into the COPS shop.”

COPS volunteers aren’t police officers, but they are trained to help people find the information they need and to help them file police reports if needed.

“We get drug houses and domestic violence and all sorts of things,” said Colleran. “I have learned how to defuse a situation and how to really listen to the issues people come in with.”

Volunteers are in short supply. Hedlund said senior volunteers “drop off the map” either because they move, develop health issues or die.

“You can’t blame them at all,” she explained. “They worked hard for us and now they are in their 90s and just can’t manage any longer.”

Hedlund is not sure what that will mean to the COPS program in five years.

“It’s really hard to tell what the future will bring us,” she said. “Generally, here at Neva-Wood, we have enough volunteers to stay open – but who knows what’s going to happen?”

Among this shop’s successful programs are bicycle registration and bicycle helmet programs. The shop also mails out a newsletter every month.

“Earlene Littell is the editor of the newsletter, and she does it mostly from home – that’s another way to volunteer for us,” said Hedlund.

The shop’s graffiti coordinator, Brandi Schooley, works closely with the city’s graffiti abatement officer, Eric Walker.

“Now that some of the paint stores are offering discounts to people who’ve been hit by graffiti, she’s doing a lot to help people get those discounts,” said Hedlund.

She has volunteered with COPS for seven years, after retiring from a job as a surgical nurse.

Most often, people just need someone who’ll listen to them and their issues.

“In this world today not many people take the time to listen,” said Hedlund. “I’ll probably keep volunteering here as long as I’m able. It does help keep me alive.”

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