In the community

Locals receive training on how to be a good witness at Neighborhood Watch session

ONTARIO – As Sgt. Chris Bolyard of the Ontario Police Department talked to a crowd of more than 50 people at a Neighborhood Watch session Sunday, Jan. 8, a woman walked up and gave him a water bottle.
Moments later Bolyard began to ask the crowd questions about the woman.
What was her skin tone?
Was she wearing glasses?
What shape were her glasses?
What was the color of her pants, her shoes and her coat?
“What about her inner shirt, what color?” he asked.
Several in the audience said white or listed off colors.
“What if I told you it was red?” asked Bolyard.
His question-answer session at the Ontario Fire and Rescue Training Facility aimed to provide tools to help area residents be better witnesses.
The Ontario Neighborhood Watch effort is spearheaded by Ontario City Councilor Penny Bakefelt.
Bakefelt, who moved to Ontario two years ago from the Sisters area, said she decided to get involved with a citywide watch program at the request of Ontario Police Chief Mike Iwai.
“My goal is to develop community pride and neighborhood spirit,” said Bakefelt.
Iwai said Neighborhood Watch is a vital program.
“I can’t think of a better community policing program,” said Iwai.
Bakefelt said she has mapped out eight neighborhoods in Ontario for a potential Neighborhood Watch program. So far, she said two Neighborhood Watch programs are in place.
“Keeping the momentum will be hard but I believe it is so worth it,” sahe said.
The meeting Jan. 8 was also a quick course in situational awareness and tips regarding how to avoid scams and the best methods to be observant.
Along with Bolyard, Patrolman Braden Mitchell and Lt. James Swank were on hand to offer suggestions and provide information.
Bolyard said being a good witness takes attention to detail.
“We like to be methodical. It gives the brain a way to organize,” said Bolyard.
Swank told the crowd that often police will separate a group of witnesses in an effort to get precise information.
“It isn’t because we think someone isn’t telling the truth. But everyone sees things differently,” said Swank.
Bolyard also talked about the best way to describe a suspicious vehicle to police. A simple system – using the letters C, Y, M, B, and L – can help a resident focus key information for police.
For example, the letter C stands for car while the letter Y is the year of the vehicle. M is the make of the vehicle – whether it is American or foreign – while B stands for the body of the truck or car. L stands for the license plate.
Bolyard said police rarely receive a full license plate number when a resident reports a suspicious vehicle.
“You can usually at least determine the state by the color of the plate,” he said.
Bolyard said a good witness must “remain calm in the face of adversity.”
He instructed the crowd on what he called “combat breathing,” a technique used to calm anxiety and help with focus in a stressful situation.
“When your body registers anxiety it goes back to when we were chased by lions and tigers. With combat breathing you are getting back in control of your body,” he said.
Mitchell talked about situational awareness procedures and cyber fraud. He said situational awareness – knowing your surroundings – is important around the house and the neighborhood.
“The big takeaway is don’t be oblivious,” said Mitchell.
He also described several fraud schemes across the nation – including one where an individual calls a resident to request money for a police officer’s fund – and emphasized never sharing banking information with phone solicitors.
He also urged the crowd that if they “see something that looks out of place, it never hurts to tell us.”
Bakefelt found the session beneficial.
“I think this is important, it’s good to remind people to be aware,” said Bakefelt.
Bakefelt said anyone interested in joining a Neighborhood Watch program in Ontario can contact her at 541-588-2500, or [email protected].
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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