Mollalla divided after patrol walk with guns

MOLALLA — An Oregon community is divided after a few residents openly carried firearms during a "community patrol event."

The two-hour Wednesday night walk was meant to help police and suppress criminal activity in Moalla, organizers told the Oregonian.

But City Councilor Leota Childress and others said the walk raises as many issues as it was supposed to solve.

"The reference to unwanted persons makes me concerned," Childress wrote in a Facebook post. "Who among this group is going to judge who is wanted or unwanted??"

Councilor Jimmy Thompson, a participant in the event, said the idea was prompted by a sense that property crimes are on the rise in the 9,000-person community.

"We have a relatively small police force here and they obviously can't be everywhere," Thompson said. "We talked about being the eyes and the ears for the police. We want people to know we're watching."

He acknowledged that the guns made some people uncomfortable, but said "they're legal."

The walk was organized by longtime Moalla resident John Chenoweth, who says he hopes to organize a gun-free walk for next week.

Of the dozen people who participated in the walk, only three carried firearms, he said.

"I won't tell anyone they can't carry a weapon," he said. "But I'd really like to foster an atmosphere where everyone in the community will feel comfortable turning out."

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