Friday, August 20, 2010

Guest Editorial

Guest Editorial
Chief Terry Holderness

I was recently contacted by a group of citizens expressing concern about the crime and disorderly contact in the downtown area and thought my response to them may be of interest to the larger community.

Reported crimes and drug related calls have been dropping in the downtown area for several years. Overall activity last summer was about half of what it was in 2007. While other crime and reports of drug related problems are consistent with 2009 we have seen an increase in disorderly conduct problems in downtown Ashland this summer. I am not sure exactly why this is happening other than there have been several groups of people in town this summer that are being unusually rude or obnoxious and causing problems.

The Ashland Police Department monitors the issue closely and is aware of the activity.

One uniformed officer is assigned full time to deal with issues in the downtown area. We always have more officers on duty on Friday and Saturday nights when it is busiest in the downtown area. All of our uniformed officers are expected to do both vehicle and foot patrol in the downtown area. In addition several times each month, during the summer and occasionally during the winter, we have officers in plain clothes patrol the area. The number of citations written in the downtown area for non traffic related offences this year is actually at an all time high for the City of Ashland. Most of those citations were written early in the summer and we have seen a significant reduction in actual violations occurring during July and August. In spite of that calls related to disorderly conduct remain high.

Because of the increased activity this summer we have increased the frequency of both uniformed and plain clothes officers patrolling the area on foot for the remainder of the summer. We will continue to devote resources and develop new strategies to deal with changing problems we encounter in the down area.

We are limited by Oregon law as to how we can handle certain situations. There is no law in Oregon against “aggressive panhandling.” However, panhandlers cannot be so aggressive that they violate laws against disorderly conduct or harassment. Unfortunately, simply being rude or obnoxious, which is the complaint we most often receive, is not covered under “disorderly conduct” or “harassment”.

Per Oregon Law:
166.025 Disorderly conduct in the second degree.
(1) A person commits the crime of disorderly conduct in the second degree if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:
(a) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;
(b) Makes unreasonable noise;
(c) Disturbs any lawful assembly of persons without lawful authority;
(d) Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic on a public way;

(1) A person commits the crime of harassment if the person intentionally:
(a) Harasses or annoys another person by:
(A) Subjecting such other person to offensive physical contact; or
(B) Publicly insulting such other person by abusive words or gestures in a manner intended and likely to provoke a violent response;

Possession of drugs or use of drugs or alcohol in a public place is against the law but an adult being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not a crime in the state of Oregon unless they are operating a vehicle. Police can take a person to a detoxification center if they are so intoxicated to be unable to care for the welfare of themselves or others. Generally this requires that the person be unconscious or unable to walk safely on their own. In spite of those limits we will respond and at least attempt to deal with any report of problem activity in the city.

Please call the police if you see activity that disturbs you. We will respond and try to resolve the issue. If you would like more information, have suggestions or would just like to talk about these problems I would be happy to meet with you in person and discuss the issues and what we have been and should be doing to address them.

Terry Holderness
Chief of Police

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