Proposed levy could affect Grants Pass Public Safety

Grants Pass, Ore. — Josephine County is proposing a levy that could go on the May ballot, and law enforcement in the City of Grants Pass are watching closely.

Though the proposed levy still has to go through several steps before it can appear on May’s ballot. Grants Pass Public Safety is already bracing themselves for another potential budget cut within the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office.

“The current level of justice provided for the county of josephine is inadequate,” said Chief Bill Landis.

Landis is the Chief of Grants Pass Public Safety.

For several years, he’s been struggling with how his department can efficiently serve the community, while also picking up the slack for the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office’s short-staff.

“How many people can you really hold to task at a juvenile department if you don’t really have adequate beds and space to deal with that,” Chief Landis said.

It’s a scenario that he knows all too well.

“If we didn’t have jail beds, issuing citations, which we did in 2012, was ridiculous. Someone committing a burglary in a house we took them out wrote them a ticket and sent them on their way,” he said.

It happened over and over again.

“Someone in a stolen car taken down at gunpoint – put him in handcuffs, sit him in a car, write them a ticket and send them on their way,” Chief Landis said.

Now, with the potential for budget cuts at the Sheriff’s office, the patrol division could disappear. People could be laid off from the jail, and only 80 beds would be available to hold criminals.

Chief Landis said his department may have to donate more time, they just don’t have.

“If people can commit crimes in the city and run out into the county it requires us to go chase them down and try to locate them,” he said.

Chief Landis said when criminals know public safety just doesn’t have the resources, that starts to put police in danger.

“Criminals basically start to become more aggressive towards police officers. Basically, they know they can thumb their nose at police because they’re not going to go to jail,” he said.

It’s something Chief Landis hopes he doesn’t have to experience in Grants Pass again.

“That’s how dysfunctional it is because you can perpetuate a lot more crime when people realize there’s no consequences for their actions,” he said.

As it stands right now, the levy would last for five years. The proposed levy would cost citizens $0.93 per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. The sheriff said it would raise about $6 million.

Commissioners hope to review the proposed levy next week and decide what to do, but getting voter support for a tax levy in Josephine County will prove daunting. County voters have rejected six law enforcement levies since 2012. The most recent failed attempt coming just three months ago.

Those against the levy have cited numerous reasons for their opposition – including that the county should have seen this funding issue coming, and county officials should get funding from other departments.

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