TRAIL — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week will launch a crime-deterrence program to protect Corps property throughout the Rogue River basin as well as facilities in the Columbia and Willamette valleys.

TRAIL — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week will launch a crime-deterrence program to protect Corps property throughout the Rogue River basin as well as facilities in the Columbia and Willamette valleys.

The Corps has received Congressional authority now to offer cash rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of vandals causing damage to Corps property.

Locally, the Corps operates Lost Creek and Applegate dams as well as various facilities around those lakes, such as McGregor Park along the upper Rogue downstream from Cole Rivers Hatchery.

The Corps also maintains the property at and around half-built Elk Creek Dam along Elk Creek, a tributary of the upper Rogue.

A combination of regular patrols by Oregon State Police and park rangers, the relative remoteness of Corps projects here and a kind hand by users keeps vandalism to a minimum here already, said Len Vaglia, a Corps park ranger.

Despite the occasional vandalized sign, carved picnic table-top or a firecracker down a toilet, the sites go relatively unmolested, Vaglia said.

"All in all, other than two or three instances a year, I think we do pretty well," Vaglia said.

But when it happens, people who witness or suspect that a crime has occurred can call the toll-free Corps Watch telephone number, 866-413-7970. The line will be for reporting information of theft, vandalism or any threats against Corps facilities or any suspicious activity.

The number is available 24 hours a day. Like the state's Turn In Poachers, or TIP program, callers can remain anonymous and still qualify for rewards.

Each year, millions of dollars worth of property are lost nationwide due to vandalism, theft, arson and environmental and cultural degradation.

Corps officials are quick to point out that the new program does not replace the 9-1-1 emergency notification system. Those who observe a crime in progress should call 9-1-1 immediately, then call the Corps Watch number, according to the Corps.

The program is also in place at the Corps' Portland District facilities in the Columbia Gorge as well as the Willamette Valley.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com