Illinois Valley residents, frustrated with burglaries and mischief, have turned to social media to share information and, it is hoped, curtail the sorts of theft rings recently uncovered in other parts of Southern Oregon.
Carol Dickson’s introductory post on a new Facebook group formed to help spread information about crime in Illinois Valley. The page has grown to include members from all over Josephine County.
Valley resident Carol Dickson started the open Facebook group, “To Catch a Thief,” Tuesday morning, July 17. Within hours the site had more than 150 members. By Wednesday afternoon, the site was closing in on 300 members and had garnered county-wide attention.
Neighborly advice, regarding mail safety, found on the group page.
“It started when one of my facebook friends posted that someone had stolen a John Deere tractor with backhoe attachment from the Holland Loop area,” Dickson told the I.V. Daily View. “He mentioned that the owner had recently died and the house had been trashed. It infuriated me so I shared it on my page thinking that locals may see it somewhere.”
The group is open for anyone to read, and any Facebook user can become a member. The idea was to share information with as many people as possible and have a central place to post the information.
Dickson created a tab within the group titled “Stolen Property” where members can post photos of stolen items. The image is “tagged” with the owner’s name, said Dickson, “so if we need to find out who owns the property, we don’t have to search through all of the posts. I’ve also listed some guidelines for useful information to post.”
Not a few of those joining the group are Josephine County law enforcement or criminal justice professionals.
“ It can be a resource for them too,” Dickson said. ” To me it is just an added resource to a physical Neighborhood Watch program and on a grand scale. My 50 friends tell their 50 friends who tell their 50 friends and so on.”
Dickson has warned against vigilantism, stressing this is more like a Virtual Neighborhood Watch.
With a background in law enforcement, Dickson knows the value of the eyes and ears of the average citizen.
“One of the few disadvantages of living in a rural community is generally law enforcement is ‘reactive’ rather than ‘pro-active’,” she said. “They come after the fact and take the report and/or pick up the pieces. My thought is if someone sees any of this property, the owner can call Oregon State Police to standby with them while they recover the property.”
She said that the database and the idea that citizens are paying attention might discourage some criminals.
“I think it’s a little bit like America’s Most Wanted,” said Dickson. “Just the fact that millions of people watch the show means the bad guys are always looking over their shoulder. I’m hoping if the word gets out about this that it may discourage this criminal behavior in some of our neighborhoods. “
“I have always found that neighborhoods with people who keep their eyes and ears open have fewer problems than other neighborhoods. “