Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort stations have opened and closed in recent years but one thing has remained the same – there are hundreds of volunteers dedicated to helping the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office with tasks both large and small.
Like the Sheriff’s Office, the SCOPE volunteers serve all of unincorporated Spokane County as well as the city of Spokane Valley. They deal with abandoned cars, check homes of people out of town, lift fingerprints from cars that have been broken into, provide traffic control at vehicle accidents and crime scenes and patrol their neighborhoods to look for anything suspicious.
The goal of the patrols, which include horseback patrols of the Centennial Trail and in Riverside State Park, is to be a deterrent, said SCOPE president Rick Scott. “We’re trying to be visible out there,” he said. “We’re eyes and ears, but we’re not confrontational.”
He likes to tell the story of two volunteers who were on patrol in a retired police car with SCOPE markings who happened on a man carrying a television. When the man spotted them, he dropped the TV and ran. The volunteers called 911 and deputies were able to catch the man, Scott said.
Volunteers have to undergo a background check, pass the interview process and complete basic training before they can don the trademark green SCOPE volunteer shirt and get to work. The organization is looking for people who want to be active in the community, Scott said.
“We’re really looking for people who want to be in SCOPE,” he said.
In 2015 the growing population south of the Spokane city limits prompted the opening of a new SCOPE office. But just last month the Spring Hill office north of Fairchild Air Force Base shut down because there weren’t enough volunteers to serve the rural area, Scott said. That area is now served by the volunteers in Medical Lake.
There are other SCOPE offices in Central Valley, Deer Park, East Spokane County, Edgecliff, Elk, Cheney, Liberty Lake, Trentwood, University, West Valley, North Spokane County and South Spokane County.
The list of things SCOPE volunteers do is long. They run a bicycle safety program, fingerprint children for Operation Family ID, check for disabled parking violators, call crime victims with updates about their cases, operate the Crime Stoppers program, run a graffiti task force and help property crimes detectives.
Last year volunteers donated 70,000 hours of their time, Scott said.
“There’s so many things which the volunteers have done,” Scott said. “I’m pretty proud of our group.”
The Sheriff’s Office is very grateful for the work the volunteers do, said spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory.
“They’re invaluable to what we do,” he said. “This is a tax savings to the community.”
Some of the work the volunteers do simply wouldn’t be done if it had to be done by deputies. “With our budget, we simply can’t afford it,” Gregory said.
When a SCOPE volunteer arrives at a crime scene to block the road or direct traffic, that frees up a deputy to go back to work responding to calls, Gregory said. Volunteers do data entry and other tasks that free up deputies and they’re out in the community making connections and talking to people.
“We just don’t have enough personnel to be out talking to everybody,” Gregory said. “I cannot say enough about how important SCOPE is. They’re such a huge support system for us.”
SCOPE gets funding from the Sheriff’s Office that covers rent and utilities for the various SCOPE offices and other costs. But some SCOPE groups like to do fundraisers to put together extra money for more programs.
Perhaps the best-known SCOPE fundraiser is West Valley Days in Millwood and Otis Orchard Community Days, both in June. The relatively new SCOPE South group is planning a yard and plant sale fundraiser June 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1605 E 17th Ave.
The group wants to use some of the money they raise to host a Night Out Against Crime community party, said volunteer Diane Holick. They’d also like to buy a few gallons of paint to help with graffiti issues.
Holick said she’s only been a volunteer for a few months but is excited about all of the volunteer opportunities. “It’s so rewarding,” she said. “I get to work with great people.”