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Council eyes homeless ban

Exclusion Zone 1 is proposed for the downtown core.

Exclusion Zone 1 is proposed for the downtown core. Contributed photo

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A second exclusion zone, above, is proposed to the west of the first. Together the two zones create a continues zone from Webber Street to the east to Taylor Street east of downtown.

In a bid to address concerns about homeless impacts in town, The Dalles City Council on Monday will discuss creation of exclusion zones, from which people accused of certain crimes can be banned.

If they reenter the zone after being excluded, they can be arrested for trespassing.

Also proposed is amending the city’s nuisance ordinance to prohibit camping on public property within the city limits.

The council meets 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 313 Court Street.

A staff report to council about the proposed changes said staff looked at matters the city could address, such as “aggressive panhandling and loitering in tourist and shopping areas.”

“In order to create a safe environment, we can create a zone that will not allow repeat offenders to be in a specific area,” the report stated. It noted civil exclusion zones are a common tool cities use to address problems with the homeless.

“These two proposed changes would greatly help manage the nuisance and criminal concerns around homelessness.”

The report said illegal activities by individuals can have a negative impact on residents and visitors, affecting economic well being and quality of life.

The two proposed civil exclusion zones are contiguous, and take in all of downtown from Taylor Street on the east, to East Third Street on the south, and continues westward along West Second, and West Sixth, ending at Webber on the west end. Its southerly border in that part of town is West Eighth Street.

The proposed ordinance lists 24 crimes for which a person could be excluded from the zone for up to 90 days.

If a person is cited, arrested or taken into custody for those crimes, they qualify for exclusion.

The crimes range from trespassing, disorderly conduct and harassment to assault and strangulation. Others are any sex crime, public indecency, drug crimes, weapons crimes, graffiti crimes, theft, littering, and tobacco possession by minors.

It also includes illegal camping and entering any property in the exclusion zone when the property is closed to the public between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The Dalles Police Capt. Jamie Carrico said thefts, or shoplifting, and disorderly conduct such as defecating and urinating in public are two of the listed crimes that occur the most often.

He estimated the proposed exclusion zone would affect maybe five or six people, based on his own experience in terms of witnessing crimes himself or responding to reports of crimes. He said there are probably more people that other officers know about that he hasn’t dealt with.

Business owners have complained about problems with transients damaging property, squatting on property and yelling at customers.

An excluded person has five days to file an appeal with the municipal court. Exceptions to the exclusion would be for persons who live in the exclusion zone or need to go there for work, to obtain services, attend a public meeting or court hearing, or attending religious services or otherwise exercising a constitutional right.

The municipal court judge can issue a variance to exclusion, such as for people who live in the exclusion zone or have essential needs that they need to go to the exclusion zone for.

The variance must be written and carried on their person whether they are in the exclusion zone.

City staff also want to work with the­ municipal court judge to see if a program similar to mental health court could be developed, which would provide resources such as employment and housing opportunities and the opportunity to participate in the work crew program as an alternative to paying fines.

Comments

jamesandrews28 1 week, 4 days ago

I see a lot of problems with this as something that could easily be abused by an aggressively postured cop. What I find unreasonable about this is it will encourage profiling of anyone walking around downtown at 9pm. I guarantee you that you will see cops questioning and interrogating anyone with dirty clothes walking around at night, meanwhile I could walk around with a nice jacket and white skin and get no trouble whatsoever. We need to avoid legislation that has the chance to encourage profiling and enabling the biases of our police, who of course have a very hard job, but are flawed humans like any one of us. The law should mandate police to approach the citizenry fairly. Legislation that targets the poor is allowing the police to have an entirely different system of rules for those that struggle. Deal with crimes when they occur, if someone is defecating, arrest them. If it happens too often then let's talk about making the punishment stricter for that specific crime in way where they face the justice system, but let us not ban human beings. This allows the crimes of a few to have effect on anyone that is without housing. Think of how many of us are a paycheck away from homelessness. Edit

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