Yakima County Sheriff’s Office car
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Citizens in Yakima, Wash., are becoming a valuable part of upholding the law.

The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office Block Watch programs have trained citizens to watch out for suspicious activity as “they patrol the county’s sprawling network of roads in marked, surplus police vehicles equipped with yellow light bars and police radios,” the Yakima Herald reported.

The Block Watch program is “not designed to encourage anyone to take the law into their own hands, rather, it is to to help communities recognize what crimes are happening in our own neighborhoods and ways to prevent them,” according the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.

Citizens involved in the program are trained to be the “eyes and ears” of the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.

Their authority is limited: They can’t carry firearms, they can’t make arrests and they call in deputies when things get sticky. But they are valuable in spotting suspicious activity and reporting problems to dispatchers. Residents of the neighborhoods have caught on and have learned to flag down patrol members if they see something they don’t like.

The sheriff’s office does provide some resources for the program, but are seeking contributions from local businesses and community groups “to cover costs of operating the vehicles.”

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