Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers has convinced county commissioners to try to put a temporary tax increase on the rolls to help get the department back up to full force on the street. The tax increase would also hire additional deputies whose primary job would be to help insure that those who belong in jail stay there, while releasing inmates who are not a threat to the community and would be better off being rehabilitated in the community rather than inside the jail. The net affect, of course, would be a more humane program, with fewer “in house” inmates so that the county doesn’t have to build a new jail costing taxpayers horrendous sums of money.
Landers said the 46-cents per thousand of assessed value tax would cost the owner of a home assessed at 200-thousand dollars around nine dollars a month. And for that tax bump the county would hire approximately 13 new deputies. A number of those would work with inmates in the jail to ascertain who should be there and those who should not, thereby keeping the jail from being overcrowded and not costing inmates lost wages from his or her job because they’re in jail. These released inmates would also be monitored by deputies to make sure they show up for their court dates to face whatever charges have been placed against them and to ensure that inmates continue with whatever rehabilitative programs are assigned them – whether for drugs, alcohol, burglary, simple assaults, destruction of property – it’s a long list.
Other deputies would be assigned to help with anti-drug law enforcement on the streets – especially focusing on the primary ways many drug abusers raise money for their habits, largely through fraud, burglary, theft, etc.
The tax increase would also re-instate overnight sheriff’s patrols. Some years back the county dropped routine coverage between 3am and 7am due to the slow recovery from the last recession. The tax hike would restore that extra coverage. As it is today, regular police officers in Lincoln City and Newport usually respond when a deputy is not immediately available. Police officers get control of a “situation” and hold it down until a sheriff’s deputy can roll out of bed and get down there. If the tax increase passes, there will be 24 x 7 coverage by the Sheriff’s Department so that under most circumstances, the deputy can handle the situation thereby allowing city police to stay inside their own city limits. As a footnote, Oregon State Police shut down their patrol operations at 1am and resume them in early morning.
Other deputies would assign certain inmates to supervised community service work – mostly outdoors projects. Other deputies would supervise appropriate inmates to speak in front of school groups about the realities of illegal behavior – especially as it relates to alcohol, drugs and domestic violence.
An extra deputy would be assigned to accompany jail inmates walking to and from the courtroom – it takes two to properly escort and see to it that the inmate behaves him or herself. A recent law allows certain inmates to not be handcuffed in front of a jury which can be a security issue in the eyes of law enforcement. So each defendant would have one officer on each side of him if they’re not cuffed.
Next Wednesday the county commissioners will likely ratify what was clearly their intent to put the extra deputies on the May ballot. Again, it’s for five years with a tax rate of 46-cents per thousand of assessed valuation – between 8 and 9 dollars a month on a home with an assessed value of $200,000 dollars.
The tax increase would run out at the end of five years – the summer of 2023 – largely to determine whether the new methods of handling arrestees turns out to be successful. Sheriff Landers said with opportunities of probation and community service, the program quite likely would actually reduce court, district attorney and services costs. Sheriff Landers said other counties around Oregon and the country already use similarly effective approaches to handling criminal cases – some are more about mental health problems which triggered the crime. He said his department is committed to getting people what they need – not just punishing them by filling up the jail.
If the tax measure passes, the new deputies will be hired and new programs will be put into place to see if Lincoln County enjoys the same level of success as found in other communities. If it works the voters might be willing to give it another five years depending on how things turn out. Again, a big part of the motivation is that the county doesn’t want to build a costly new jail.