Approve Umatilla County measures to fight crime


Support the Umatilla County measures: 30-14 (Five-year jail levy) and 30-97 (Funding for 18 additional deputies).

Those of us who are directly responsible for city police departments ­— Pilot Rock Mayor Virginia Carnes, Athena Mayor John Shafer and me — can see the critical need for more Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office patrols and jail deputies.

The staffing levels now for deputies is dismally low with 0.34 deputies per 1,000 population (equals 1 deputy per 3,000).

Union County has 1.8 deputies per 1,000 (equals 5.4 deputies per 3,000), over four times higher. Morrow County is 2.3 deputies per 1,000, Grand County and Walla Walla County are both 1.4 per 1,000. Even adding the 18 deputies our staffing level will be just over one deputy per 1,000 population.

Consider the distances involved in Umatilla County. How long does it take deputies (even if they are not already on a call) to get from Umatilla or Hermiston to Pilot Rock, Ukiah, Athena, Weston or Tollgate?

If we had enough deputies, they could concentrate on smaller areas and get to know and deal with the problem causers.

We see good results when police officers can spend time with youths before they become our next generation of problems.

Anything less than 24/7 coverage is just a Band-Aid on a major problem.

It is critical to be able to house offenders in our county jail, not just having a short-term revolving door. The sheriff’s new policy of holding prisoners for a minimum of 36 hours has helped but the office is presently understaffed.

Now county residents are at the mercy of whether a deputy is available and if so how soon he/she can arrive on the scene.

We know these measures cost us dollars directly. Compare these costs with the direct and indirect costs of crime. There is a value also to the peace of mind that comes with knowing a deputy is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In 2016, the original county bond that was used to build the present jail will be paid off. That will drop our costs 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

Please vote yes on these two measures. We can no longer ignore these problems.

Duane Thul

Mayor of Weston


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