Working together we can discourage metal thieves, drug dependency


Last week we talked about how our community, has been and is being robbed — both materially as well as in peace of mind — by metal thieves looking for a quick source of cash, usually to get their next high — not to feed their hungry family.

We want to take back the streets, the downtown, our neighborhoods, our community… not by taking, but by giving. We’ve been inspired by a young woman in our community, who is doing just that.

Courtney Cook, 26, is an Aberdeen Bobcat, who now works in our community. She spoke at a recent Aberdeen City Council meeting and we were impressed with her passion and drive. So was Mayor Bill Simpson, who recently appointed her as a member on the Downtown Task Force to address some of these issues.

Social media

Incensed with how drug users are stealing metal, camping out in abandoned homes and becoming an unattractive nuisance in downtown Aberdeen, Cook started a Facebook page called “Get Rid of Tweekers in Aberdeen.” It seems to have struck a chord with many people.

She started the Facebook page on March 8. By March 14, she had 30 “likes,” the next day, 100 “likes,” by March 18, 500 “LIKES.” On March 22 the Get Rid of Tweekers in Aberdeen page had 1,000 likes, and when we spoke to her on April 15, that number was up to1,402.

We agree with her assessment — “pretty amazing!”

“I started it because I was angry, but it calmed me a lot to see how many people think the same way I do. And now, rather than venting myself, I want to help make a stronger community,” she said. “One way or another we all relate to each other in this community on the drug problem.”

Now she admits the tone of the name “Get Rid of Tweekers in Aberdeen,” isn’t exactly what she’d like — in fact she’d rename the page if it were simple to do. But, despite the harshness of the name, it has become a place for people to come together online to work to solve the drug and thievery problems, encourage volunteering, getting to know your neighbors and looking to provide positive activities for youth.

In fact, Cook is hoping that this page will be a place where people with concerns, ideas, money, time and know-how can somehow meet up to begin to make a difference in our community.

In addition to the Facebook page, and volunteering to be part of Mayor Bill Simpson’s new task force, Cook has begun working with the Gregorian group located at the SouthShore Mall, to help youth find fun, productive interests.

Cook also did something that we all could learn from. She simply walked out her front door and went door to door to learn her neighbors’ names and phone numbers. In the process she discovered one of them had recently had a car stolen and someone else had model cars taken from his garage. On a happier note, she also learned that some were interested in a neighborhood barbecue and others in a neighborhood garage sale. This is community organizing at its best!

Connections

Then she recently went back to her neighbors with a map she’d created with a list of neighbors’ names and phone numbers, so that they can all watch the block together and help discourage crime.

Cook says she grew up in a family where she was taught that if people used drugs in their own houses it was their business and that they weren’t hurting anybody else.

“I grew up in a family that was conditioned that people do drugs and even sell them because they need to to get by. There are a lot of kids around here that grew up with meth in the next room.”

“I don’t agree with that thinking. What people do, does affect others. There’s a lot of functioning addicts here. I just want to shed light on that. It’s just not OK.”

So that’s why Cook has decided to step out of her comfort zone, commit to her community, bringing a breath of fresh air to the fight against drugs and the thieves that steal from us all to support their endless need.

“I know there are no easy solutions, but if we can just keep the momentum going, it will make it much easier,” Cook said. She said that connecting people together via her Facebook page and in other ways, encouraging people to volunteer in organizations that help young people, making an effort to get to know your neighbors, shopping in our area’s downtowns and helping local businesses are some of the ways that help keep the momentum of positive change happening.

We think Paint the Corridor has been just this perfect example of creating positive change, at the highly valued volunteer level, that continues to make in impact to the community. There is plenty of room for more good.

“You can’t just take care of your own family and expect good things to happen in the community. It doesn’t have to be a lot of extra time, but you might have to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, volunteer, meet your neighbors, watch out for others,” said Cook.

To us at NeighborWorks, this is the straight talk of a community builder committed to taking action. Now we have to all join her passion for her community and do our part.

Solutions

Something else that encouraged us in the fight against metal thieves was Sheriff Rick Scott saying there’s legislation requiring picture identification to sell metal. Those folks who have committed certain crimes have their names on a registry that they can no longer sell to recyclers, he said.

Unfortunately, enough time has gone by since that legislation passed that many criminals have just taken their next step to sell stolen metals in a different county or through a second person. And the ping-pong game continues.

Thankfully, Scott said, sheriffs and police associations are working now to establish a state-wide data base to counteract that.

The metal merchants need to join the community effort and stop buying metal that was obviously not given to the same guys over and over.

In the meantime, while people are so desperate for drug money, Scott advises “minimize the likelihood of being a victim.”

That’s where eyes and ears of neighbors can make the difference. Once a metal thief is attracted to an area or people decide a certain empty house would make a nice drug flop house it affects the whole neighborhood and community, Scott said.

“Clean up around your properties and don’t leave metal scrap about… Thieves are like vultures attracted to this and then you can become a victim of even more theft.

“The best thing people can do is to make themselves the least likely victim as possible,” he said.

We agree!

One specific way to do that is to pay attention to the skirting vents and crawl hole covers at your house — and your neighbors’ houses — to make sure they are adequately secured. They can be an easy entry place for thieves looking for copper pipes and wires.

We also suggest that you let a trusted neighbor know when you’re on vacation but don’t announce it to the world. Also, pay attention when the neighborhood dogs bark. And, of course, keep the doors to your house, garage and any outbuildings locked.

And, let’s all take the example of Courtney Cook by seeing what we can do to positively impact our community by exposing and removing the human blight.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County. Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in