MEDFORD, Ore. — “This is certainly not something we intend to go out and exclude every single homeless person from the greenway,” said Deputy Noah Strohmeyer, Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office.
The Bear Creek Greenway has been a hotspot for crime, garbage, and the homeless.
Now, Jackson County leaders are considering a new ‘exclusion law’ barring people from being in Jackson County parks for 90 days if they are engaged in criminal activity.
“Right now, we can contact the same problem person on the greenway dozens of times. And we don’t have the ability to do anything except write them citations,” said Deputy Strohmeyer.
Deputy Strohmeyer says a citation, like one for prohibited camping, doesn’t hold much weight.
“The individuals that are continuing to offend and to victimize people on the greenway, often times they’re victimizing other homeless people. Often times, we don’t have a great solution because they go to jail and often times, property crimes and more minor crimes they’re back out on the greenway in short order,” he said.
If the law were to pass, Deputy Strohmeyer says a person breaking the 90 day exclusion would be charged with trespassing.
“From that point I understand it. I can understand where people are concerned is this targeting the homeless,” said Rogue Retreat Executive Director Chad Mccomas.
Local non-profit Rogue Retreat created Medford’s new urban campground designed to help the homeless get resources and camp safely away from the greenway.
Currently, McComas says the campground is full.
With recent wildfires displacing thousands, he says we need more resources.
“Sometimes when you have a crisis it makes you change something. And so maybe with this new ruling it creates even more of a crisis or a stimulus to create places for people to be,” said McComas.
Although the proposed law would apply to prohibited camping, the sheriff’s office wants to stress it is not targeted at the county’s homeless population.
“The goal is to have a specific tool to use for specific individuals who are showing again and again and again they are acting in and illegal fashion and they are doing things above and beyond just being homeless. This is certainly not strictly to target homeless people,” said Deputy Strohmeyer.
Before being passed as a law, Jackson County Commissioners say there are a number of steps including a public hearing which will be held sometime in November.