The Tillamook Police Department, like other community services, has been very busy this last year with the COVID 19 Pandemic negatively exacerbating livability issues as well as response to regular criminal activity within the City. There has been a lot of negative energy directed at the City Police Department for what is perceived as an inability to deal with these issues, especially with persons who are homeless or in some sort of crisis. Crisis can involve different types of medical or social issues and can be exacerbated by use of alcohol and or drugs.
The Police Department responds to reports of criminal behavior as well as other behavior that affects livability issues, to include those that impact our local businesses. Calls are documented and some sort of action to stop or minimize the behavior is normally conducted.
Normally, depending on the activity and circumstances, options include physical arrest and lodging at the County Jail, Citation to appear in lieu of physical arrest, referral to the District Attorney for possible warrant or other action, transportation to the Tillamook Regional Medical Center Emergency Room for crisis evaluation by medical and local counseling services or transportation to Tillamook Regional Medical Center for medical evaluation. With lodging at the County Jail, there are then options to release the person, either on bail or other allowed process. Generally, when released from jail, the person is placed on a release agreement, there are restrictions on the agreement, if violated, that can result in the person having the release agreement revoked and the person placed back in custody at the jail.
This last year has not been normal. At the beginning of the COVID 19 outbreak, emergency declarations, to include City, County and State were put in place. Restrictions, controls and process were similar but there were some differences in interpretation and process. Initially, the county and state courts closed until they could set up access that fit within parameters set forth by the Governor’s declarations. There were restrictions and closures throughout government services, buildings and properties as well as businesses, medical services and schools. These restrictions eventually loosened to allow access to certain government and other function but some restrictions still occurred as interpreted by different services and facilities.
These initial closures and restrictions severely hampered are ability to deal with criminal and other behavior. Cases were not initially coming before courts and arrests were severely curtailed because of restrictions set by Tillamook County Government. Because of this, eventually warrants were issued for some persons but, depending on the severity of charges, lodging was not approved. The Courts later opened up under Health Authority guidelines. This allowed for a further backlog of cases and further issuance of warrants.
As we have progressed until now, there are still restrictions on who can be lodged at the jail. At this moment the restrictions only allow very serious person to person crimes and a few mandatory arrest laws. This precludes us from being able to, on a regular basis, lodge less serious offenders. Identifying those cases as less serious does not minimize the crimes and their effects on the community. These are the types of crimes that would occur most regularly, like theft, criminal mischief, harassment, trespass and drug offenses to name a few. These crimes most commonly frustrate and affect our community partners and members. They also cause frustration with the Police Department and its employees
This year our community seems to have been more seriously affected by homeless persons and persons in some sort of crisis, as well as other continued crimes and criminal behavior in the community. In responding to these incidents, we are now very limited in our response. On almost every call involving a crime, we cannot lodge the person. We can issue a citation but this just reinforces what many of these persons know in that they will not go to jail.
In just about every case, when we issue a citation, the persons do not appear in court. A warrant then will go out for their arrest. When we have contact with them again, usually committing another violation or crime, we can only issue them yet another citation, thus continuing the reinforcement that nothing will occur negatively to them in the near future. Recently, citing for crimes would even include up to burglary of a residence to steal guns.
To give some rough numbers, for the period January 1 through December 21, here is the number of actual lodging in jail, not citation or other, arrests for the following years,
As you can see there is a drastic drop in in custody lodgings this year.
This does not mean crimes are way down. In just running numbers for the past year or so, on our redundant homeless persons downtown, here are some of the persons we have redundant contact and number of crime cases for each of them,
#1) 26 criminal Cases
#2) 30 criminal cases
#3) 21 Criminal Cases
#4) 10 Criminal Cases
#5) 48 Criminal Cases
#6) 13 Criminal Cases
#7) 45 Criminal Cases
This is an example of what we are dealing with just downtown. There were about 4 jail lodgings through this period.
For the period January 1 through December 21, here are trespass cases for the city,
So crimes are occurring and certain persons are responsible for more than just a couple. What people need to understand is that we are responding and we are investigating and we are submitting cases for prosecution or other effort to try to resolve criminal and livability issue but we cannot arrest and lodge these people. We can complete our responsibilities, which we are doing, but then, with great frustration, can do no more.
If we take certain actions, knowing we cannot lodge these people, we would open the city to severe civil liability. And don’t for a minute think that most of these persons do not know that. They will remind us from time to time, verbally and in writing.
Several years ago case law came out on enforcing camping on public owned property such as streets, sidewalks, parks and other open spaces. Briefly, if the government entity does not have resources to provide persons to, to camp, sleep or similar behavior, then no ordinance can be enforced against this activity. If there is a resource, even if the person refuses to go, then you can enforce camping. There are no such resources in Tillamook County. We are working on other county resource(s). The City does not enforce overnight camping in our open spaces and parks but we do enforce open space and park closure between 10 PM and 4 AM for curtailment of criminal activity and then allowance for Public Works to safely clean up these areas. As long as persons are allowing a 3 foot clearance on public right of ways, to include sidewalks, then they can sit, lay or camp on these areas. This is why you see persons “staying “ on our sidewalks and other areas.
We work with private property owners to try to keep persons from “staying” on their property, which results in other crimes and violations. Again, though, if we cannot arrest persons, then the issue continues.
The Tillamook Police Department works with many community partners to try to deal with different issues, criminal, violation or of medical concern. Some of these include;
Tillamook County Jail
Tillamook Regional Medical Center
Tillamook Family Counseling and Tillamook Mobile Crisis Team
Tides of Change
District Attorney’s Office
Tillamook County Juvenile Department
Tillamook County Commissioners
Tillamook Public Works
Because of current circumstances, many of these partners face restrictions. In addition, when we have contact with persons who are in crisis, committing crimes or violations or have other conflicts, many refuse any attempt to help them.
Even with all of this information, there are still going to be questions. We at the Tillamook Police Department are as frustrated as many of you. In the past we were able to immediately deal with many of these calls for service and get people to services, both negative and positive, that ultimately could help most of them. We are not able to do that now. It is not for lack of our effort. It is very upsetting to have to tell persons that there is nothing that can be done. It is very disheartening. We will always still respond and in some cases we can find some sort of alternate response but right now these are very limited. We are working with our community partners to try to find some resources to better respond but as of right now this is our dilemma.