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Rogue Valley Mentoring hit by string of burglaries

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jenna Sather-Hubbard shows where vandals broke into a learning dome at Rogue Valley Mentoring in Medford.
Nonprofit group that works with young people seeks donations to help make up for losses

Rogue Valley Mentoring has been targeted three times in the past four months by thieves who made off with large amounts of property.

As a result, the nonprofit mentoring group has lost thousands of dollars worth of resources used for activities that provide support to local young people, including tools, children’s bicycles, propane tanks, shade awnings and outdoor heaters.

Some of those associated with Rogue Valley Mentoring have lost personal items as well.

“It was eye-opening,” said Jenna Sather-Hubbard, operations manager at Rogue Valley Mentoring. “We had to be more careful with our space.”

The organization pairs adults with young people who could greatly benefit by spending time with an adult willing to offer them care and compassion. There are also support circles for young people ages 10 to 24 led by small groups of mentors.

Rogue Valley Mentoring moved to the 2900 block of South Pacific Highway nearly two years ago. The location is near Lithia & Driveway Fields (formerly U.S. Cellular Community Park) and the Bear Creek Greenway.

Those involved used to leave a light on overnight at the back porch for their homeless neighbors. They also allowed these people to use an outdoor electrical outlet to recharge their mobile phones, as well as fill water bottles from an outside spigot.

However, some people were also leaving used hypodermic needles and human waste near the door, and the arrangement devolved into a health hazard, she explained.

Someone also moved into a storage shed on the property. They cut off the organization’s door lock and put their own lock on the shed.

The squatter had to be evicted.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune A sign posted on a learning dome at Rogue Valley Mentoring in Medford.

Several small thefts initially went unreported, but the first of three significant burglaries occurred in November when someone broke a window lock, climbed inside and took off with a variety of items, Sather-Hubbard said.

Two more large thefts followed in January and March. Items stolen on March 8 had a value of about $5,000, she said.

The organization had an alarm installed after the November burglary.

It’s thought that a man found wandering around the property before the March burglary might have been looking around to see what was available and devise a way to steal those items. Someone involved with the crime figured out how to break through the garage in a way that wouldn’t set off the alarm.

The alarm system has been updated so it will detect motion.

Police and some people from Rogue Valley Mentoring went to the greenway area to see whether any of the items stolen were out there.

Some stolen awnings were seen being used as makeshift tarps by homeless people staying there. Other items taken were found in that vicinity as well, Sather-Hubbard said.

One location being burglarized three times over such a short time span is unusual. And the most recent burglary, which remains under investigation, was committed by one or more people who were “highly motivated,” said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.

Rogue Valley Mentoring has made efforts to improve security after each burglary.

Budreau recommends improving overall lighting so people trying to break in could be better seen by passersby.

Another deterrent would be to add video cameras. The cameras are inexpensive, and if someone manages to break in, the video will make it easier to solve the crime, Budreau said.

Some camera surveillance systems can be configured to send a text alert when someone sets it off. It’s a lower-cost alternative to an alarm system.

Some items at Rogue Valley Mentoring had been brought outside while someone was working inside the structure before the latest burglary.

The mentor group had a purpose for bringing things outside but is dealing with a unique situation, Budreau said. People should make it a practice not to display items needlessly, however, he said.

How to help

Rogue Valley Mentoring is accepting donations to assist it in replacing stolen items, because its budget is limited.

Send checks to Rogue Valley Mentoring, 2931 S. Pacific Highway, Medford, OR 97501. Or go to rvmentoring.org to learn more about helping.