Persona Non Grata | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
The Source Weekly’s reporting is made possible by the power of your support. Be a part of it!
Pin It

Persona Non Grata 

City Council votes 5-2 to expand downtown exclusion zone

As the weather heats up, so too does crime. And this summer, the Bend Police Department is hoping to nip bad behavior in the bud with an expansion of the city's civil exclusion zone. But the move, which would allow police to ban individuals cited or arrested for certain crimes from the downtown area, is not without controversy.

At its May 20 meeting, Bend City Council voted 5-2 in favor of a first reading of an ordinance to expand the zone's footprint. The current exclusion zone, approved in 2010, covers public parks such as Drake Park, the breezeway, and adjacent areas owned by the City. The expanded zone would stretch from Greenwood Avenue to Idaho Avenue and from Broadway Street to Lava Road/Harriman Street.

Since the exclusion zone's inception, Police Chief Jim Porter said 34 people have been excluded. In testimony to City Council, he explained that the majority were banned for drug-related crimes (41 percent), followed by trespassing (23), consuming alcohol in public (15), disorderly conduct (12), vicious dogs (6), and sex crimes (3).

Part of the controversy comes from the basis that the individuals excluded need not be convicted of any crime. And while they have a right to appeal the exclusion, because it is a civil rather than criminal proceeding, they are not entitled to legal representation. Concerns have also been raised about the efficacy of such exclusions and the possibility of simply moving criminal activity to a different part of town.

While Chief Porter and City staff repeatedly emphasized that the exclusion zone is intended to reduce violent crime and chronic offenders, the code includes a long list of eligible criminal citations, ranging from serious person crimes like assault and sexual offenses to more minor missteps including graffiti, littering, and underage smoking. The amendments also add marijuana and dog-related offenses to that list.

"There's a privilege to being part of our society," said Councilor Casey Roats. "If this is the deterrent we need to make downtown nice...I don't see this as being an issue whatsoever."

Councilor Sally Russell noted that the exclusion zone could have some silver lining for those excluded.

"I think this is a really fair tool," Russell said following Chief Porter's testimony. "I remember that a huge percentage of your repeat calls are mental health. We know as a community we are working with that. This is another opportunity. This is a way to pull them into our safety net."

City staff indicated in its report to Council that the expansion would likely reduce the number of incidents police respond to downtown, increase the number of visitors to downtown businesses, and make the area safer. No potential downsides were suggested.

But Councilor Barb Campbell, one of the two who voted against the ordinance, had plenty of concerns. Before sharing her thoughts, she passed out copies of the U.S. Constitution.

"I understand the Constitution fully, and this is not about the Constitution, it's about criminal activity that needs to be curtailed," said Councilor Doug Knight. "I will be supporting this."

But Campbell, who owns the downtown toy store Wabi Sabi, said her concerns about civil rights and unintended consequences outweigh any benefit she might gain as a downtown business owner.

"This thing protects my business and I don't understand how we can do this downtown and not in Northwest Crossing, in the Old Mill," she said. "We treat these individuals like it's a game of Whac-A-Mole," a reference to the carnival game where a player knocks down one "mole" just to have it pop up elsewhere.

She pointed out that similar ordinances had been passed and repealed in Portland and Eugene. In both cases, the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the ordinance.

"The ACLU of Oregon has consistently voiced objection to civil exclusions and we must do so here," ACLU Legislative Director Andrea Meyer wrote in a statement to the Portland City Council in 2010. "To be clear, the ACLU of Oregon does not oppose exclusions when they are issued by the courts."

Meyer continued to explain that exclusions issued by the court as part of a criminal proceeding give the accused the opportunity to be represented by counsel and would not require law enforcement to assume the role of the judiciary by meting out punishment. It's a sentiment Councilor Campbell echoed in her impassioned remarks.

"I just worry about how much of a problem is there, is this really the solution to the problem, are we just pushing this off into the rest of the community?" Campbell continued. "If they're not breaking the law, they're not breaking the law. If they're breaking the law, put them in jail."

But that's easier said than done, according to proponents of the ordinance. In cases where police issue citations and the cited individual does not appear in municipal court, police have little recourse but to send the citation to collections. Chief Porter said the exclusion zone gives police a tool to better manage the behavior of those for whom a citation is little deterrent.

"It's just one more tool to remove criminal behavior downtown," Chief Porter said at the Council meeting. "Whether we're Whac-A-Moling them or not, we want to make this an area that's safe for people."

But Campbell, as well as locals speaking out in the visitors' section, expressed concern about the fact that folks excluded from downtown might simply take their criminal behavior elsewhere, such as the Old Bend neighborhood or other shopping areas.

"If we do this they're going to move to where?" asked Councilor Nathan Boddie, who also voted against the ordinance. "I'm concerned this tool opens up opportunity to sweep some things under the rug that aren't aesthetically pleasing."

Council will vote on a second and final reading of the ordinance at its June 3 meeting.

About The Author

Erin Rook

Erin is the Source Weekly's Associate Editor. Before moving to Bend in 2013, Erin worked as a writer and editor for publications in Portland including PQ Monthly and Just Out. He has also written for the Willamette Week, El Hispanic News, Travel Portland, OUT City, Boston magazine and the Taunton Daily Gazette...
Pin It

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Conservation Controversy

    Conservation Controversy

    Local irrigation districts have a plan to conserve water in the Deschutes River and protect endangered species, but environmental groups say it isn't enough
    • Nov 4, 2020
  • The Christmas Tree That Almost Killed Us

    The Christmas Tree That Almost Killed Us

    A local couple reflects on what went wrong after getting a ride out of the wilderness by Deschutes County Search and Rescue
    • Dec 23, 2020
Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Kids Curate:  The Power of Process

Kids Curate: The Power of Process - High Desert Museum

Mon., May 23, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Submitting an event is free and easy.

Newsletter Signup

Get Central Oregon daily news
directly in your inbox

Get Social

Latest in Local News

  • Schenkelberg Resigns

    • May 18, 2022
    Bend will lose two elected officials at its City Council Meeting on May 18 More »
  • Cover Your Grasses

    • May 18, 2022
    New data on fire risk and a study on fuel reductions in high desert ecosystems comes as Central Oregon approaches fire season More »
  • Rental Housing Black Hole

    • May 18, 2022
    The median home price in Bend rose to over $750,000 in May, a 30% jump from the same time last year. More »
  • More »

More by Erin Rook

Want to advertise with us?

For info on print and digital advertising, >> Click Here

© 2022 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA AVE, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation