Sunday, June 26, 2005

4,618 Square miles. 103,452 people. 5 deputies

The RegisterGuard
June 26, 2005
by Bill Bishop


There is frustration over calls for help that go unanswered as five patrol cars try to cover 4,618 square miles of unincorporated Lane County, where 103,452 people live. In total, the sheriff has 18 patrol deputies providing 24-hour coverage, seven days a week.

The county's overcrowded jail is the most high-profile image of the sheriff's budget shortfall. But it's not the only one.

She is not surprised that Eugene officials recently shot down a proposal by the county to consider forming a new taxing district to boost public safety in rural areas

The number of serious crimes reported increased 17 percent in the first four months of this year, compared with the same period last year. The number of calls for less serious problems rose 12 percent in the same period, according to sheriff's department data.

Those are only the crimes that get reported, says Sgt. Cliff Harrold, who supervises Jacobson and three other deputies on the swing shift on this particular Thursday. Criminals are well aware of how thin the patrols are. Citizens seem to be catching on, too, he says.
Like Duh! especially when you keep "advertising on the front page of the paper" that you're shorthanded and do not respond to calls.

Relying on backup

It's dangerous for a deputy to go solo to high-risk calls.

The county's hills, valleys and forests create pockets where cell phones and radios don't work. Not far from Eugene, on the far side of Bailey Hill, is one such place. A deputy there cannot summon help if a call goes bad.

and again you are advertising this because?

Burnout among deputies is a growing concern for department commanders, says Sgt. Cliff Harrold.

I really feel for the sheriff's department and city police about lack of funding and manpower, but we are not given the complete picture.

The sheriff's department for example is more than just five officers. There are another five officers that are part of the "traffic team" which are self-funded. The primary job at the traffic team is to patrol the freeways. They are not allowed to respond to general law enforcement calls unless it is a life or death issue or providing backup. The rare exceptions are if they happen to be in an area of high priority and there are no other officers to respond in the area.

(Source: city and sheriff's officers that I have personally asked this question of)

It is also in my opinion and extremely "stupid" to advertise that you do not have coverage. Example, the DA giving out a list of what they will not respond to opens the doors for criminals and gives them free range.

I understand that the whole purpose of articles like this is for public support and sympathy.

However, you must also remember that public perception and support is very important to law enforcement.

When you hear that a department does not have enough personnel to protect its citizens, but yet you see a patrol car sitting on the side of the freeway with its lights off for hours running radar, the public does not understand that that is a traffic team member not a patrol officer. We do not see that they are two different things.

In the Eugene/Springfield, area crime is on the rise. What makes the news? A sting over prostitution. Obviously more important than tracking down the people that you stole my car or broke into my house. Oh, I forgot, you don't have the personnel to patrol.

Personally, I think it comes down to getting value for money and priority.

Although I do agree that keeping prostitution out of our neighborhoods helps makes our neighborhoods safer, I think that I would rather hear that they just busted a meth lab or a car theft ring over arresting nine Johns trying to get a little "whoopie" tonight.

To be fair, I cannot emphasize the point enough that it is not the officers fault. Most are excellent at what they do and they do the best that they can with what they have to work with, they just got stuck in the middle of the funding battle.

7 Comments:

Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

Robin,
This is one of those ticklish issues pitting commonsense vs. the public's right to know. On the one hand, you're right on target when you say this is a bad form of advertising. It's like placing a sign in your front yard that says, "We're gone for the weekend and the back door is unlocked!"

However, if public officials ever hope to convince voters that more money is needed for public safety, this is the kind of article that might motivate more yes votes. If people come to realize the gravity of the situation, maybe they'll think twice the next time a bond measure for police services comes up.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

However, if public officials ever hope to convince voters that more money is needed for public safety

But what will it take to get them to spend the money appropriately?

6:58 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

But what will it take to get them to spend the money appropriately?

Daniel, you hit the nail on the head.

For those of us like myself who have lived in the Eugene area for a long time remember things like when the city of Eugene built the Hult Center. It did not take long for them to realize that it was costing them a lot of money to maintain this center. So, they had this brilliant idea of taking money from a newly voter approved sheriff's levy and leaving the sheriff's department only 10% of the funds.

The voters of course raised a stink about it (filtered to maintain a GP rating) and the city Council promised not to do that again.

So the voters approved a second sheriffs levy, and they did the exact same thing again.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.

Several years later, the city of Eugene announced that it was running a $8 million deficit which according to the city charter is not allowed to do. A lot of local business people put together a car washes and other fund-raising events to donate money to the city to help them out of this predicament.

The city's response was "thank you for the money, now here is our new wish lists". Needless to say, local business owners were very upset.

It is very unfortunate that this has to happen. The lack of trust between government and its people. But that is because in my opinion our system does not have a checks and balance in place.

Any politician, can promise anything to get into office, then once there run rampant and it takes an act of God to get them out. What would be nice is if we added to our Constitution that a vote of no-confidence can get someone out of office similar to the parliamentary system.

It is extremely obvious anymore, that there are some politicians that are only there for their own gain. For example, Brian Obie, who was mayor of Eugene was only there to change the sign ordinance so he can have his company put up more billboards. Isn't that a conflict of interest?

I really feel the pain for law enforcement. My father used to work for the Oregon Department of Justice has an investigator, I have friends that are on the local police force and sheriff's department.

I agree with trey, "if people come to realize the gravity of the situation", I think people do realize that, I just do not think people "trust" that their money will go to where it is meant to go.

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