Community policing gets underway

Hood River City Police Chief Tony Dirks is pleased that, after less than one year, his vision for a community policing program has hit the road.

Last week three local car dealerships stepped forward with the keys to two vehicles that were being donated to the cause. The gifts followed Safeway’s commitment to direct its fundraising efforts during 2002 to the Sunshine Division, the charitable arm of the department, a move that has netted $1,500 to date.

“This is really what community policing is all about,” said Dirks. “I think that we have just been laying the foundation for the program to grow because it is the trend of law enforcement in the future.”

When he was hired last May, Dirks immediately set a goal for his department to partner with citizens to ensure that safety issues and crime were dealt with as efficiently as possible. To aid in that effort, he obtained a federal grant last July that allowed him to dedicate the full-time efforts of two officers, Aaron Jubitz and Tiffany Hicks, toward the program that will be used as a model for other rural counties.

With the vehicle donations, both Jubitz and Hicks will now be able to do their respective jobs without putting a strain on the police force by using one of the regular patrol cars. School Resource Officer Hicks has taken the wheel of a Pontiac Grand Prix donated by Cliff Smith Motors and Hood River Dodge. A Ford Taurus was granted to Community Resource Officer Jubitz by Hood River Ford-Mercury for his commute between the two cities in the county.

Both vehicles were outfitted with new wheels compliments of Les Schwab Tire Center.

Hicks currently divides her time between Cascade Locks High School and both Hood River and Wy’east middle schools.

She is responsible to assist educators and administrators in their efforts to make the educational experience safe and more rewarding for students. In addition she has set up a new program in cooperation with Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital to promote compliance with the mandatory helmet law. When city officers now see child riding without headgear they are issuing a certificate good for a helmet that is being provided by the Trauma Nurses Talk Tough Program. To reward safe decision-making, the police will be also be handing out free ice cream coupons from Dairy Queen to children wearing their helmets and operating bicycles and skateboards in a safe manner.

“It has really been exciting to see all of these people come together and it’s a great thing to be a part of,” said Hicks.

Jubitz is just completing a breakdown of crime statistics for the past three years in 72 newly identified “neighborhood zones” in Hood River and 16 in Cascade Locks. He said compiling data has been somewhat of a surprise since many times crime is being committed in unexpected areas. For example, Jubitz said that about 34 percent of crime in Cascade Locks occurs in the downtown area and he is meeting with city and business leaders to discuss that problem next week.

Similar meetings will be scheduled throughout all of the zones by this summer to poll residents and come up with a Neighborhood Watch strategy that will drastically reduce or eliminate specified safety and property threats.

“I feel like I’m making more of a difference now than I’ve ever felt during my 13-year career,” said Jubitz.

The two new community resource vehicles have joined a growing fleet.

The Hood River department also recently scored two surplus service trucks, one a 1979 city ambulance that has since been converted for use as a mobile crime lab and emergency operations center, and the other a 1986 military pickup that can be used to haul equipment and supplies. The wheels were donated by Nelson Tire Factory.

“It’s taken the effort of all the people involved to bring these programs to fruition,” said Lieutenant Jerry Brown.

He said the Sunshine Division is just in its infancy but now has enough seed money to begin filling in the gaps that prevent hardworking individuals from achieving a life goal.

All monies collected in canisters set up in local businesses will be placed into a special fund and used for needs identified by area service agencies and both Jubitz and Hicks through their community interaction.

“I think this growing partnership really shows that a great many people have been waiting for this kind of effort,” said Dirks.

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