Living in a rural community can be a blessing — peace and quiet, natural beauty. But it can also present some challenges, and dealing with crime in a relatively isolated setting is one of them.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is the primary resource for Key Peninsula residents, but with limited resources and a large physical area to cover, Citizens Against Crime (CAC) has been a real help for PCSD for more than 35 years.
“We are the eyes and ears for the Pierce County sheriff,”said Cindy Worden, CAC president. “Sheriff Paul Pastor sees our value and talks about Citizens Against Crime when he speaks in the community. I am proud of that.”
Sergeant Brian Ward from the PCSD Peninsula Detachment confirmed Worden’s statement.
“CAC is an asset. It is good for citizens to organize and to help identify trends that may not always show in reports,”he said.
Local resident Hugh McMillan founded CAC in 1988 following vandalism at the Peninsula School District school bus depot in Purdy and the Key Peninsula Middle School. McMillan and Rhys Wood planned to file a class-action lawsuit against the parents of the vandals, and word of this led to an interview by KOMO television news.
After that interview, McMillan said, “the phone rang off the hook with people asking what they could do to help. Within a few weeks, over one hundred people attended a community meeting and CAC was born, thanks to the action of many individuals.”
The sheriff’s department trained volunteers with a 10-hour program.
In 1995 a plan was formulated to have a mobile patrol staffed by CAC volunteers. Gig Harbor car dealers offered to loan cars, but insurance problems left them with the alternative plan, using magnetic signs with the CAC logo mounted on private vehicles.
Sheriff Pastor, then the operations officer, was instrumental in wading through the red tape to make the program happen, according to McMillan. A Seattle Times article in 1998 reported that that there were 40 volunteers serving as patrols at that time.
According to Worden, membership has varied over the years. There are currently about 40 members and five teams on car patrol. They always work in pairs, with one person driving and the other taking notes.
Volunteers are trained in the process of observing and understanding what 911 operators will want during a call. The patrols are timed randomly, with volunteers usually covering areas near where they live.
CAC recently had its 501(c)3 status reinstated. With the ability to raise funds, CAC hopes to grow again. The group plans to revise its website, update its Facebook page, purchase more magnet signs for the patrol cars and reimburse patrols for gas and mileage. In addition, members encourage neighborhoods to form block-watch groups —CAC could provide training.
“CAC does a phenomenal job. I am impressed by their organization and efficiency. I wish we could replicate it in the other regions,”said PCSD Lt. Larry Minturn.
New members are welcome. Applicants undergo a background check and may have an “active”or “secure”status depending on the results. Worden encourages all KP residents to consider joining —from the young to the old.
Committees include bylaws (an ad-hoc committee), elections, membership, social media and patrol.
Meetings are at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Key Center fire station. Email for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.