A Whatcom County local, Steve Avila, is so fed up with smash and grabs at local trailheads, that he has started a volunteer movement. He calls the group Whatcom City Zen, and they stand watch while you hike the trails.
Avila started the group after hearing anecdotal stories about rising instances of crime in the Bellingham area. Being a hiker and witnessing car break-ins at the trail heads, he figured he would help out his county by starting there. “We have over two hundred volunteers now. We are still growing every day.”
On weekends, the volunteers set up a tent and offer coffee, snacks, and good ‘ol conversation to passing hikers. When new-arrivers approach, they offer coffee or snacks. More times than not, that driver leaves. Smash and grab diverted.
Avila says he spoke to trail supervisors two weeks ago, and there have been fewer break-ins at main trailheads. Hikers also see them as making a big difference: they feel safe knowing someone is in the lot patrolling.
The volunteers can’t make arrests, but their presence in an empty parking lot deters thieves from coming in and causing trouble.
Whatcom City Zen is actively looking for volunteers.
“People can volunteer for fifteen-minute to an hour or two. Everything helps. And if they are interested they can email us at whatcomcityzen@gmail.com to get on the roster for more information,” Avila said.
The volunteer group needs the help. Already in 2022, there have been sixty-five break-ins, according to Whatcom County Sheriff’s department
Total trailhead prowls since 1/1/2017: 419
2022 (Jan 1

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