Neighbors band together to patrol Vancouver's "420 gate"

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A group of neighbors who live in an unfortunate spot have banded together to make their own fortune.

Situated in the middle of a neighborhood behind Mountain View High School, a publicly owned walkway known as "420 gate" has long had a reputation as a place where students congregate after school to hang out and smoke pot.

The neighbors bordering the walkway decided they'd had enough when someone found what they thought was a gun, although it actually turned out to be a toy.

"It was probably up to 50 children just taking up this whole area," said Sarah Idress, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight or nine years. "If you tried to drive down the street, your vehicle would literally be mobbed."

So, the neighbors began staking out the walkway at 147th Ave. and 12th St. before school, during lunch and after school.

Students don't like it much. In particular, they said the neighbors can be aggressive and profane, taking their pictures and painting the students with a broad brush.

"They're saying everyone that goes through this gate is a hooligan, is doing meth, is being violent and that's not true," said Zoie Claborn. "There are a couple of kids that come here and try to be cool and do that stuff and we don't tolerate it."

Vancouver police Cpl. Charles Ford said he's been working the neighborhood for five years, and the gate has been problematic for the entirety of his tenure.

He said he encouraged the neighbors to get involved - peacefully.

"From what I hear from the neighbors, there's drug use here and other types of activity," he said. "I haven't seen it, but I don't doubt it. We have drug use all over the city and wherever kids are gonna congregate, there's gonna be a few that are gonna be involved in that kind of stuff."

The neighbors say they feel justified because the students have significantly brought down the quality of life in their neighborhood.

They also feel like the police aren't listening.

"They smoke, they litter, they go onto the property and they'll urinate on the property. They'll sleep on the property, they'll buy and sell drugs, do drugs," Idress said. "The police would come, the kids would scatter for a couple minutes and then they'd be back. I feel like our complaints have fallen on a lot of deaf ears."