In the wake of a spate of graffiti and other vandalism and petty crime in Sisters, some citizens have taken to patrolling the area at night as a kind of informal community watch.

Sgt. William Bailey of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office told The Nugget that law enforcement appreciates an alert and attentive citizenry that can act as “extra eyes” for law enforcement — but witnessing and reporting should be the limit of action.

Bailey said the same ground rules apply to any citizen, whether they’re “on patrol” or simply going about their business: If you see suspicious activity, report it — and that’s it.

“They should not approach, engage, or get involved with whatever it is and just be a good witness for law enforcement,” he said.

Sgt. Bailey told The Nugget that his understanding is that the citizens on patrol have been adhering to that protocol.

“I have been told that they have been very good about just reporting information to law enforcement,” he said.

Sgt. Bailey said that community watch activity spotted a group of juveniles found to be drinking on Forest Service land off Highway 242, and a group of juveniles downtown after curfew, escorted home by a deputy.

Bailey noted that “prevented crime is always hard to quantify.”

There was an incident last week that alarmed some local residents. Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) reported that members of the cleaning crew at Coffield Center at the west end of the Sisters High School parking lot had an encounter with a citizen who apparently thought their activities were suspicious.

The citizen called at about 9:50 p.m. to report a “juvenile problem.”

“A deputy arrived and did determine that it was the cleaning crew,” Bailey told The Nugget.

Bailey said that the citizen “illuminated” a cleaning crew member out near a dumpster, but did not attempt to block the person in. SPRD reported this was the third time the cleaning crew has experienced such scrutiny from citizens, but Bailey said this was the only one he was aware of that generated a police contact.

“This was a traumatic incident for this person and for this company,” SPRD interim Executive Director Courtney Snead told The Nugget.

Sgt. Bailey told The Nugget that he has been told that the citizen involved is no longer a participant in the community watch patrols.

Sgt. Bailey reported that the problem that precipitated active citizen patrols — multiple episodes of “tagging” — remains under investigation.

“Our deputies are actively on it,” Bailey said.

No arrests have been made.