Chronicle Editor Erin Tierney and LCSO Sergeant Scott Denham hang out for the day with patrolling in Creswell.
Editor’s note: Lane County Sheriff’s Office offers ride-alongs to civilians. This is part two of a two-part story about Chronicle Editor Erin Tierney’s experience riding shotgun with Sergeant Scott Denham.
Perhaps the most jarring fact I learned when riding along with Sgt. Denham was that Creswell’s main crime, per capita, is sex crimes involving children.
Sgt. Denham reported there were 11 Measure 11 calls received in 2017 and 11 cases made in 2017. Measure 11 reports range from murder to arson to a variety of sex crimes.
It is of note that not all of these calls or cases are adjudicated or deemed founded, and not all are sex crimes; however, Sgt. Denham said the majority of the Measure 11s listed were sex crimes, and more than half of the sex crimes did involve children.
Sgt. Denham can’t identify a specific reason as to why Creswell sees a higher concentration of this type of crime, but noted there is definitely a spike, compared to other small cities he’s patrolled.
”From working in both Veneta and Creswell, I can say that Creswell definitely has more (sex crimes) per capita,” Denham said.
It could be the close proximity to Interstate 5, or a higher concentration of families in the area, but Denham said there’s never been a study conducted, so reasons are ultimately unknown.
There is only one Megan’s Law sex offender listed in Creswell, and that’s because that list only shows violent or predatory offenders. However, that does not account for the ”lower level” sex offenders, which are present but do not show up on Megan’s Law.
The registered sex offenders aren’t necessarily being the ones investigated the the Measure 11 crimes.
There is no shame in reporting a sex crime, Denham said.
”Sometimes people are afraid to call and report these crimes, but things are kept discreet and it won’t cause you any embarrassment,” he said.
If you or someone you know has been affected by a sex crime, it is important to call the Sheriff’s Office as soon as possible to report it, Denham said. The longer one goes without reporting a sex crime, the more difficult it is to collect evidence or for police to locate or keep tabs on the alleged offender.
SPEEDING / TRAFFIC
Driving around, Sgt. Denham has all hit main routes he covers several times a day. He’s looking for anything suspicious – open doors at houses with no cars in the driveway, people loitering or out of place on the streets and suspiciously parked vehicles. He monitors the neighborhoods for people driving too fast or failing to abide by the street signs.
He monitors the bars for suspected drivers under the influence of alcohol. He said that some people have the boldness to believe that since this is a small town and live so close that it is acceptable to drive home in such a state. He sits in the best areas of opportunities to recognize traffic violations that could be related to drinking and driving.
LSCO often hears remarks that people zoom up and down Oregon Avenue, but Denham said that the speed demons are more far and few between than many think. Sitting on Oregon Avenue with a radar aimed at the cars, most citizens scoot along as they should.
However, about 30 percent of Creswell drivers are driving with a suspended license, Denham said, and many drivers may not even know it.
According to the Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division, your license may be suspended if you fail to pay traffic tickets or have too many violations; fail to pay child support; are convicted of a DUI; if you fail or refuse to test for blood alcohol concentration; if you fail to appear in court; or if you fail to comply with a court order.
If you find yourself pulled over by a police officer, remember to act cordial.
During my ride, Sgt. Denham pulled over a truck going well over the speed limit, but did not issue a ticket.
He said when pulling someone over, police will use their judgement on whether or not to issue a ticket. In this case, the speeding vehicle was en route to Creswell Food Pantry, and the driver did not have a long list of traffic violations. Realizing the citizen’s likely financial situation based on their destination – and because the citizen was forthcoming with their errors and non-confrontational – he let the citizen go with a warning.
”The purpose of traffic control is to mitigate behavior,” Denham said. ”Ticket or not, with the presence of police, sitting and monitoring speed helps to do that.”
It’s not about the police departments making money, he said.
”LCSO and Oregon State Police receive zero dollars from curating traffic tickets,” Denham said. And the City of Creswell makes very little money on curating traffic tickets, contrary to popular belief, he added.
City Recorder Robert Tharp helped us out with the numbers: ”The State of Oregon gets the first $50 received for payment of the fine and Lane County gets $16 for every citation written,” Tharp said. ”The citing agency receives half of the fine and the remaining amount belongs to the City.”
So, hypothetically, if a citation was adjudicated for $165, the breakdown would be as follows: the State of Oregon receives $50; Lane County receives $16; the citing agency receives $82.50; and the City of Creswell receives $16.50, Tharp said.
24-HOUR POLICE SERVICE
Getting to 24-hour police service is an ongoing conversation in Creswell.
Currently, the City contracts with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office for three patrol officers and a fulltime sergeant – deputies Bryan Holiman, Levi McKenny and Derek Bastinelli and Sgt. Denham. The contract provides 20 hours of police coverage per day. There is no police coverage in the City from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m., Denham said, and with the population anticipated to increase by about 1,000 by the year 2020, the demand is only going to grow.
Creswell voters in November 2016 voted down a five-year public safety levy by nearly 62 percent. The levy would have imposed a tax of $1.85 per $1,000 of home’s assessed value, and was expected to raise around $700,000 a year for a total of $3.4 million over a five-year levy period, according to Chronicle archives.
According to a policing study paid for by the City of Creswell out of Portland State University (PSU), Creswell budgeted $650,538 in 2015-16 fiscal year to cover intergovernmental agreement cost, covering the three fulltime patrol deputies and a parttime sergeant.
Based on annual budget data from 2013-14, the study stated that Creswell has the lowest per capita costs, and cost per $1,000 assessed value, of compared cities, including Veneta, Philomath, Winston, Warrenton, Toledo, Oakridge and Brookings. Veneta was the second lowest on these measures. Junction City, Toledo and Brookings incurred added costs because they operated dispatch centers and/or city jails, the PSU report states.
Comparable cities with near 5,000 citizens and internal police departments paid between $1.09 million in Winston, to $1.3 million in Philomath and $1.4 million in Warrenton.
According to the study, compared to deputies in Clackamas, Douglas and Marion counties, the annual base salary for a Lane County deputy is about equal to Marion County at $55,000. Deputy base salary in Clackamas County is higher at $62,800.
For total compensation costs per position – salary, benefits and retirement expenses paid by the employer- Clackamas County is highest at $130,000 per position, Lane County is second highest at $112,000, and above Douglas and Marion Counties, at about $95,000. Clackamas and Lane County face high compensation costs because of relatively high health insurance costs and high retirement obligations, the PSU study stated.
According to Creswell Mayor Dave Stram, to get to 24-hour police coverage, Creswell would need to add three fulltime officers. The cost per deputy is approximately $161,000 per year, or $483,000 per year for three fulltime deputies.
Sgt. Denham is currently monitoring the Fern Ridge area, hoping they will serve as an example for Creswell to get to 24-hour coverage.
”Two years ago, a group of dedicated community members in Veneta put together language for a taxing district to get a measure on the ballot (for more police coverage). The price was hefty, so commissioners didn’t put it forward,” Denham said. ”So for the last couple of years, that same group has been putting together a smaller package and making it a petition-driven measure, so that the county commissioners don’t have a say if it goes on ballot or not. They’re shooting for their measure to be on the ballot in November 2018.”
To get to 24-hour coverage, Creswell needs six deputies, Denham said. With six deputies, Creswell would have 24-hour patrol, including overlap shifts and shift coverage during deputy vacations.
”The best bang for (Creswell’s) buck is to go by a certain boundary such as the Creswell School District (CSD) boundary and create a taxing district,” Denham said. ”Everyone within the CSD boundaries would be paying the same amount for law enforcement.”
The breakdown on a traffic citation fine in last week’s Creswell Chronicle article about policing in Creswell was incorrect. The correct breakdown is as follows: State of Oregon gets the first $50; Lane County gets $16; Citing Agency receives half of the fine portion, which would be $49.50 and the city receives $49.50. A $165 violation is a Class C violation; a Class D violation is cited at $115 and of that the City would only receive $25.50. The court sees, on average, 20 citations per month. The Chronicle apologizes for the error.