MEDFORD, Ore. — “What keeps you from getting into a house… like what kind of barriers do you have,” asked Corporal Randy Jewell of the Medford Police Department to two homeless people living on the Bear Creek Greenway.
Corporal Jewell is one of five officers in the Medford Police Department’s new “livability team.”
The team was approved by the city council in June as a solution to crack down on criminal behavior downtown and along the greenway.
“We handpicked each of our livability team members to have that personality and to be able to have compassion and to get to know these folks,” said Chief Scott Clauson, Medford Police Department.
Previously, Medford Police and other law enforcement agencies ventured onto the greenway a few times a month during “sweeps.” They cleared out camps, gave out citations for illegal camping, and offered referrals for drug, alcohol, and other counseling services.
However, Chief Clauson says it wasn’t motivating enough people to seek out help.
“We would expend resources on one end of the greenway one month and go to the other end of the greenway, so sometimes two months would go by and it’s difficult to establish relationships,” he said.
Corporal Jewell says one of the challenges of his new role is finding the right balance between enforcing the law and helping those who disobey the law.
“We went from just being guys and gals who went out there to make arrests. We would stop people and write tickets and do different things to now we are more of a community partnership,” said Corporal Randy Jewell, Medford Police Department.
Although the agency realizes not everyone will accept a hand up, it’s still going to try.
“If they turn you down at the moment, maybe the next time you run into them they will actually accept those resources and it’s just about finding them at that right moment in time where they’re ready,” said Corporal Jewell.
The new team of officers will be out on the Bear Creek Greenway during the daytime hours Monday through Friday.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.