The Roseburg City Council voted unanimously to expand the downtown Enhanced Law Enforcement Area on Monday night.
The area, also known as the “exclusion zone,” prohibits people who have been cited three or more times for crimes such as assault, drinking in public and disorderly conduct from entering the zone for 180 days.
The exclusion zone originally covered most of downtown east of the railroad tracks. With the expansion, it includes an area west of the railroad tracks along the riverfront, from Southeast Oak Avenue north to Deer Creek.
The City of Roseburg continues efforts to enact policies that make downtown more appealing.
Two audience members voiced concerns about the process by which someone may appeal to the police chief or the Municipal Court for a variance allowing them to enter the exclusion zone under some circumstances.
Variances may be issued if an excluded person needs to attend drug treatment sessions or religious services within the exclusion zone, or at the discretion of the chief or the court, according to city code.
The appeal must be received within five days of the issuance of the notice of exclusion.
Christopher Hutton, who runs the warming center at the Foundation Fellowship Church — an overnight homeless shelter that opens when temperatures drop to freezing — said he worries about how the exclusion zone will affect people in an emergency.
The warming center and the Roseburg Rescue Mission are both within the exclusion zone.
He said people in immediate need of a shelter bed would not have time to apply to the city for a variance on their exclusion.
“I understand the, ‘We don’t want trouble-makers or whatever else in that area,’” Hutton said. “But there are going to be some services that they need to get to. And they’re afraid of getting arrested or in further trouble for participating in those services.”
Roseburg resident Phillip Baca pointed out that the expanded exclusion zone area includes Umpqua Low-Cost Veterinary Services.
He said some homeless people who have been excluded or given exclusion zone warnings have dogs that may need emergency veterinary care and can only afford the low-cost vet.
“That puts that dog or animal at risk of not having the proper care for them,” Baca said.
Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley said the code can’t accommodate every emergency situation. Having the variance appeal in advance allows the city to have a conversation with an excluded person to see what services they could access, according to Colley.
“If someone’s in an emergency situation, the likelihood of us issuing an additional criminal citation for someone is extremely, extremely low,” Colley said.