Homeless Issues Prompt Downtown Community Safety Meeting

Last week, the Medford Police Department and Downtown Medford Association hosted a community safety meeting in response to concerns about the downtown area. During the meeting, Medford Police Deputy Chief D.J. Graham explained what MPD has done, what they are doing, what they are planning, and what challenges they face.

What MPD Has Done

In March 2022, City Council members asked MPD to put together a pilot project of how they’ll address safety concerns in downtown Medford. The pilot project was presented to Council members and the Downtown Medford Association. Following Council’s approval, police patrols increased downtown for nine weeks from May to July 2022. Here’s what MPD accomplished during the project:

  • 440 individual citizens contacted
  • 20 individuals referred to or connected with services 
  • 134 business connections made

What MPD is Doing

MPD has specifically assigned Officer Patrick Read to the downtown district. Officer Read checks businesses in the morning and is available to them Monday through Thursday from 6:00 AM to 4:00 PM. If business owners would like to get in contact with Officer Read, you can reach him at patrick.read@cityofmedford.org or 541-232-6237.

What MPD is Planning

MPD plans to expand the Livability Team and add another Officer downtown by Fall 2023. They also plan to expand their hours of service to have evening and weekend coverage downtown. 

“We recognize that we need to get more officers in the downtown area, and we are working towards that,” said Graham. “The growth of the Livability Team is really important for its success.” 

What Challenges MPD is Facing

One of the challenges MPD faces is the legislative requirements when it comes to the camping ordinance. With only limited exceptions, Oregon State Law specifies that 72-hours’ notice be given to those camping in public spaces before relocating/removing campers.

“They pack up, maybe move 150 yards and set up another camp. We have to go and repost that camp for another 72 hours,” said Graham. 

Another challenge is that MPD can’t force individuals to receive services or enter into services.

“The people we are dealing with now are people that simply don’t want the services,” Graham said.

Lack of jail space continues to be a challenge when addressing individuals who openly violate the law. When individuals are charged or arrested, they are typically released immediately from the jail. This creates a frustrating cycle for local government, citizens, victims, impacted businesses and the entire criminal justice system.

Despite these challenges, the Livability Team has referred over 1,800 individuals to the Urban Campground, and more than 1,450 of those have moved into shelters or other housing options.

“We hope to continue increasing connections and resources for individuals,” said Graham.

Graham encourages those who want to get involved with this issue to contact Jackson County commissioners.

For volunteer opportunities, Graham says to contact him at dj.graham@cityofmedford.org.

Source: City of Medford

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