The City of Roseburg continues efforts to enact policies that make downtown more appealing.
On Monday, Dec. 10, the Roseburg City Council will decide whether to expand the Enhanced Law Enforcement Area — otherwise known as the exclusion zone — an area of downtown where people can be prohibited from entering for 180 days if they break certain laws three times within its boundaries.
The expanded area would include Riverside Park. At the council meeting on Nov. 26, Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein told councilors the park has been “overrun” with people who have migrated to the park because they committed crimes in or were excluded from the downtown area.
But the police department has not provided City Council with data showing that migration, according to councilors Tom Ryan and Steve Kaser. If City Council decides to expand the area, it will be based solely on anecdotal reports from the police.
The city instated the area starting in 2017 to increase safety and discourage crime downtown, particularly crime associated with homelessness such as disorderly conduct and drinking in public.
From July 2017 to July 2018, 29 people received only one exclusion warning, according to police data. Eleven people received just two warnings. Nineteen people were excluded from the area for 180 days. Two people were excluded twice.
The most common charge was drinking in public — 65 citations. It was also the most common cause of exclusion. Ten people received their final warning for drinking in public. Trespassing and disorderly conduct were also common charges.
Police issued 10 prohibited camping citations. People were excluded for camping five times. In accordance with a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that decriminalized camping in public, city council removed the charge from the list of exclusion zone crimes.
In response to a recent appeals court ruling, the Roseburg City Council voted Monday to decr…
Kelly Wessels, United Community Action Network Chief Operating Officer, was troubled that City Council may vote to expand the area without first seeing data focused on the new area first. UCAN works to address homelessness in the city.
“It would concern me to make any decision of any magnitude without some form of quantified data to be able to emphasize the need for it,” Wessels said. “That’s not to say that what they’re doing is right or wrong, it’s to say, ‘If I really feel strongly about this, I need to have something that demonstrates why I believe that.’ So that it’s fact-based.”
Wessels said if city councilors expand the area, she hopes they would also work to address the lack of places for homeless people to go if they are excluded from public spaces.
“If it doesn’t exist here, well then where can they be,” Wessels said. “There’s no solution on the other side. And that, to me, compromises everybody’s ability to solve the problem. It puts more pressure on law enforcement to have to do more, it puts pressure on the individuals who are experiencing it and service providers.”
Councilors said Thursday they wouldn’t require the police department to present crime data for Riverside Park to decide whether it should be included in the exclusion zone.
“We’ll leave it to the chief, and we’ll ask him, but it’s the city manager’s job to say, ‘Is this working or isn’t it,’” Ryan, the council president, said. “I’m sure that it will come up, but we leave them to do the job.”
Kaser said he will ask Klopfenstein at the upcoming city council meeting whether or not the police are seeing people who have been excluded from the area migrate to Riverside Park.
“I don’t know if I want to delay the vote to ask him to try to get some data on that,” Kaser said.
At the previous meeting on Nov. 26, city councilors asked if the exclusion zone could be expanded to include more areas than the current one.
Mayor Larry Rich asked if it would be legal to expand the exclusion zone to the city limits.
City Manager Lance Colley said it wouldn’t be, adding that the city considered including more areas in the ordinance, but officials chose to pursue this expansion because they were sure it’s legal.
“Right now, we feel that this was the largest expansion that we can deal with,” Colley said.
City Council will have a second reading of the ordinance and decide whether to expand the area at its meeting on Dec. 10.