July 28, 2011 in Washington Voices

COPS Northeast wears many neighborly hats

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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COPS Northeast was the second COPS shop to open, after COPS West, and volunteer Lynn Weiler has been involved there since the beginning. Back in 1992, the shop was established in what was a burned-out building in the middle of Hillyard.

“And I’m still here,” Weiler said, laughing. “Yes, the building needed a lot of help back then, but it’s been a good home for us since.”

Rogers High School purple is the dominant color in the front lobby, and the back opens up to a kitchen area and a few offices. At the center of the big meeting table sits an assortment of crackers, popcorn, fruit and other snacks.

“We really like our officers here,” said Weiler. “We want this to be a place where they can come in and take a break and grab a snack, and sit down.”

Like many of the other COPS shops, COPS Northeast functions partly as a crime prevention center and partly as a social services agency.

“The biggest reason why people come in here is that there’s a person to talk to,” said Weiler. “People come in very upset and we let them talk it out and try to find some resources for them.”

Among the many walk-ins over the years have been rape victims, domestic violence victims and at one time someone who’d gotten stabbed.

“One time someone walked in here, left a gun on the counter and walked out,” said Weiler.

That’s not a common occurrence.

“We had to secure the building because we didn’t know if the gun was loaded or not,” said Weiler, shaking her head.

There are 60 Block Watches registered with COPS Northeast, making it a very successful program.

Another strong program is the Super Kid Program.

Weiler explains that every month neighbors nominate a child between 7 and 14 to receive the Super Kid award. Sponsored by Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Real Estate, the award includes $100, a medallion and a certificate.

“The kids don’t know about it,” said Weiler. “The people who nominate them bring them to a board meeting here and that’s when they get the award.”

Nominees may be children who go out of their way to help out at school, or who help sick or disabled neighbors maintain their yards and run errands.

“We had a third-grader who found a little girl crying in the bushes and walked her back to school,” said Weiler, explaining that the girl had been reported missing. “Police and her parents were waiting for her at school. She was in kindergarten and had gotten lost.”

The program has been going for 18 years and is still going strong.

COPS Northeast had a Friday night open gym program at Shaw Middle School, but that program ended in 2000.

“I really wish we could bring that back,” said Weiler. The open gym featured basketball and movies and a crafts for smaller kids.

“And we tried to feed them, too,” said Weiler. “You need someone who’s really passionate about a program like that to keep it going – but it was great. I wish we could bring it back.”

On the first weekend of December, COPS Northeast has a Santa Store at Northeast Community Center. Volunteers collect toys and gifts and holiday decorations all year long to fill the store.

“It is a lot of work, and sometimes we look at it and ask ourselves why we are doing it,” said Weiler. “But then a young mom comes in, and she has a couple of kids and $5 for Christmas and we can get her all set. Then we look at each other and promise to do it again next year.”

Weiler also volunteers to do the property pickup at all 12 COPS shops. Together with other volunteers, she goes to each shop and picks up wallets and purses and tools that have been dropped off. She takes them to the Spokane Police Department and does the booking.

“We try to go every six weeks. It’s a lot of paperwork,” said Weiler.

COPS Northeast picks up new programs and events here and there. During the first week of October the shop will be hosting an open panel discussion for the neighborhood addressing code enforcement issues and other issues pertaining to vacant buildings.

“We want people to come in and talk to us and ask questions,” said Weiler. “We’re hoping to get a bunch more block watchers during that time, too.”


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