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County sheriff asks to continue levy

If approved, $10 million levy wouldn't increase anyone's property taxes

If Clackamas County residents want to maintain the current level of law enforcement service in the coming years, they'll need to approve the Clackamas County Public Safety Levy No. 3-378.

All who vote to approve the $10 million levy in the Nov. 8 election will not be voting for new taxes, according to Sgt. James Rhodes, a Clackamas County Sheriff's Department spokesman.

The five-year levy is simply a renewal of the current tax that pays for additional personnel hired after the levy was approved in 2006.

'We just want to renew (the levy) at the existing rate,' Rhodes said. 'There will be no increase in property tax to continue to fund the Sheriff's Office at the current level.'

Funding from the levy allows the county to maintain 84 additional jail beds and the jail staff associated with those inmates.

Opening those beds has helped the county reduce its early releases by 92 percent, Rhodes said.

'Before this levy was approved in 2006,' he said, 'we were releasing nearly 3,800 inmates early each year. We had to shorten their sentences because of limited space.

'Since we opened those 84 beds, the number of early releases is down to 290 each year.'

Funding from the levy also pays for a portion of the Interagency Task Force, which is focused on drug trafficking, taking children out of their parents' drug houses and keeping dangerous drugs off the street.

The levy also pays for 19 additional patrol deputies, which gives full-time service to 150,000 county residents who did not have that service previously.

'The levy allows us to increase service to 24-hour coverage year-round up and down the Highway 26 and Highway 212 corridors,' Rhodes said, 'from Damascus to Boring and Sandy all the way to Government Camp.'

The sheriff's department had only three shifts prior to the levy's approval but opened a fourth shift with the additional deputies.

All of that could be lost if the levy does not continue, he said.

'We've reduced (Type 1) person crimes by 20 percent during the past five years,' Rhodes said.

Type 1 person crimes include such offenses as rape, assault, murder, theft and other felony person crimes.

Rhodes suggested one reason for the reduction is 'increased enforcement.'

'We have more law enforcement officers out there,' he said, 'which means quicker response times, more manpower for investigations and the ability to hold people accountable and keep them in jail longer (without early release).'

The reduction in crime occurs because of the nature of a typical criminal, Rhodes said.

'A criminal doesn't just go commit one crime in their life and stop,' he said.

'Our ability to respond effectively, conduct a thorough investigation, find and arrest a suspect, hold them in jail for their entire sentence and follow with probation and counseling if they need it - all of this stops many from doing their crimes again.'

Without the continuing levy, Rhodes said, the sheriff's department would likely have to discontinue those services the levy added at the beginning of 2007.

'All those things could go away,' he said. 'We would try to find money in other places, but we have tightened our belts as much as we can. We're not asking for extra money. The cost of everything has gone up, and we're doing more with less.'

For more information, visit saferclackamas.org.