MERLIN, Ore. – An increase of suspicious activity in rural Josephine County, and a decrease in law enforcement due to budget cuts, has some residents taking the law into their own hands, but some believe they are taking things too far.
Since the public safety levy failed in May, residents in the communities of O’Brien and Merlin have formed neighborhood watch groups. While Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson says there has been a decrease in crime, he has also received complaints of the methods used by the residents of O’Brien, including pulling people over, impersonating law enforcement officers and using emergency lights on their cars.
“I admire the people for stepping up to the plate and to help. I really do, but to act as law enforcement, that’s a serious line you may not want to cross,” said Sheriff Gil Gilbertson.
The sheriff says pulling people over and impersonating law enforcement is considered a Class C felony. The sheriff recommends other types of safety measures residents can take, like planing a phone tree by calling your neighbors of suspicious activity or installing outdoor lighting on your property. There have also been reports of men checking out properties in the middle of the night, and using bird calls to communicate with each other.