While no figures are yet available to compare crime in Birch Bay before and after he was assigned, Deputy Cliff does not think crime is a major problem here now. But he cautions, “If people want a safe community, they need to be involved.”
He cites the experience of a man who saw a group of youths checking car doors. They were out of his sight before they found a vehicle to ransack. Asked why he didn’t report what he saw, the man said, “Nothing was happening.”
Deputy Cliff’s point is that had the man called 9-1-1, the break-in might have been prevented. “Too many are apathetic.” He would like to see a Block Watch or Map Your Neighborhood program to enhance citizen involvement.
Those who don’t want to “snitch” can take comfort from the deputy’s approach. When neighbors complained about young people throwing loud parties, he talked with the parents. The noisy parties stopped. “My goal is to educate and keep kids out of trouble, rather than to make arrests,” he explains.
Deputy Cliff has mixed views about speeding. Naturally, he welcomes reports but he cautions that cars seem to be going faster than they actually are. In one case, he was talking to a resident who said, “Look how that car is speeding.” The deputy checked his radar to find that the car was well within the posted limit.
The most difficult issues are domestic disputes, “Sometimes you can’t be sure which party will pull a gun.” In 24 years in law enforcement, Deputy Cliff has never had to fire his weapon in action. But every time he puts on his uniform, he says he thinks, “Today might be the day.” He taps his protective vest.