More than 200 Morrow County residents showed up at a meeting last week to talk about crime in the city of Heppner, and potential solutions to the concerns many community members have.
The complaints have ranged from a perceived increase in criminal mischief and vandalism to drug use, to an influx of people that are not working or attempting to get jobs.
The meeting was organized by county commissioner Melissa Lindsay, the City of Heppner and the Heppner Chamber of Commerce.
Lindsay said there had been a growing conversation in several different circles about those issues. She added that there were also two parks in Heppner that were vandalized recently.
“For me, instead of everyone talking and complaining, let’s come together and find a solution,” she said.
Community members agreed to form two groups — a neighborhood watch group and a community pride organization.
Both Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack and Undersheriff John Bowles were at the meeting.
Bowles said he hadn’t noticed any major spikes in the number of calls the sheriff’s office gets for property crime.
“Criminal mischief is basically vandalism calls,” he said. “I don’t see those increasing at all.”
The sheriff’s office compiled data from 2015 to 2018, looking at calls from January to August in each of those four years. In 2015 there were 19 criminal mischief calls, dipping to four in 2016, and holding at 15 calls in 2017 and 2018.
Calls for juvenile complaints were similarly irregular, with 17 in 2015, 16 in 2016, 46 in 2017 and 29 in 2018.
“We really encourage people to call and report, so we’re seeing a lot more people calling,” Bowles said.
He said he doesn’t attribute problems in the community to any one specific group, though he did say a couple of groups of teens have been contacted multiple times about vandalism.
Community members agreed to start two groups they feel will address their concerns: a neighborhood watch group and a community pride group.
The neighborhood watch will be similar to those in many communities, with residents serving as the facilitators.
Lindsay said those groups are starting to be organized.
“Citizens want to step up, and help put more eyes on more places,” Lindsay said.
They also plan to start a community pride group, aimed at steering young residents away from bad behavior.