Editorial: Become a crime fighter

Fear of crime, if not the crime rate itself, appears to be rising in Island County.

The year 2010 has started badly. Linds Pharmacy in Coupeville was hit by an armed robber to escaped with a quantity of Oxycotin. Chase Bank in Freeland was robbed by a man who may have been armed and he escaped with some money in a bag. Less than a year ago, Walgreen’s in Oak Harbor was victimized by an armed robber desperate for OxyContin.

This is unusual, particularly in the small towns of Whidbey Island. It has been years since a Freeland bank or Coupeville pharmacy was robbed. People are wondering if a crime wave is starting, and if they should fear for their own safety.

Island County Sheriff’s Office staffing has not been keeping up with population growth and the number of calls made to 911. Services it once offered are gone. There is no more DARE program to help keep kids off drugs and to make them realize that the police are friends, not adversaries. There is no more Neighborhood Watch program, in which deputies would go into neighborhoods and help residents defend themselves, with window stickers, yard signs, phone tree networks and just making sure that people know one another.

With the economy showing few signs of crawling out of the tank, this is a time for Island County residents to take more responsibility for protecting themselves. Nobody’s going to hire a bunch of new cops or start anti-crime programs. So you’ll have to do-it-yourself.

Just because there is no official Neighborhood Watch program doesn’t mean you can’t start one yourself. Get to know your neighbors, make them your friends and learn their routines so you can report anything unusual. If a strange car shows up, jot down the license number, just in case. If someone is leaving with a TV on his back, call 911.

Make sure you lock your car’s doors when it’s sitting in the driveway. Always lock your house when you leave. Burglars also watch houses, so don’t assume nobody knows your routine. Make a record of your valuable items in case they are stolen. And there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of your Second Amendment rights, as long as you take lessons in gun safety and handling, and store your weapon securely. Several gun clubs on the island can help interested folks with that.

When times are tough governments cut back and people have to do more for themselves in many areas of life. Fighting crime is no exception.

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