Residents in a couple of Crook County's more rural areas will see results of Sheriff Rodd Clark's annual series of town hall meetings quite soon.
>Residents of rural subdivisions have complained about the problem and the county is responding with extra patrols and citations to both unlicensed riders and their parents
Attendance at the four town hall meetings held by Sheriff Clark was down this year, but that was, he believes, because crime is down. Clark said he remembers a large turn-out for the community meetings when they first started being held, four years ago. Each year since, the number of people showing up has declined. The reason could be the community police program the sheriff incorporated in each of the rural areas.
In Powell Butte, Deputy Alec Irwin (misidentified as Alec Brown in an earlier story) has become a familiar face to most people in that part of the county. That is not an accident; Irwin has worked at meeting and getting to know those people.
"I used to just wave as I drove by, but now I often stop and talk with people," he said during the meeting held at the Powell Butte School last week. "I really get to know them and they get to know me."
The same holds true with deputies in the Post-Paulina area as well as Ochoco West. The major issue brought up by most people at the Powell Butte meeting and the one held at Ochoco West was the same one related to Deputy Sam Clemens.
Clemens lives in the Juniper Canyon area and that is his main focus. At the last of the four meetings, held at the county library and attended mostly by residents of Juniper Canyon, Clemens heard complaints about reckless ATV and off-rode motorcycle riders.
That problem had also been raised by residents living on Hahlen Road in Powell Butte; young kids speeding up and down private roads, raising dust and endangering themselves and others. Clemens, just as Irwin had done, explained that they have no jurisdiction on private roads.
"We can't enforce traffic laws on private roads open to the public," the deputies stated. However, "we can enforce criminal laws."
And that is what is going to happen. Sheriff Rodd Clark said that because of the number of complaints, the deputies will no longer hand out warnings, they will give citations to lawbreakers. Plus he will find the extra money to increase patrols on the rural subdivision roads.
"We had the biggest turn out at the meeting held at the library," Clark said, "and this was the biggest concern - ATVs and off-road motorcycles being ridden by children."
For some time, deputies have been responding to calls and dealing with parents, trying to get them to not let their kids ride the machines illegally. "We were told at one meeting that some of the kids are as young as seven years old," Clark added.
The list of crimes that can be enforced on private roads that are open to the public include driving under the influence, reckless driving and driving without a license.
"The biggest concern expressed by people is the fear of hitting one of these kids riding an ATV," Clark said. "We've tried talking to the parents and that didn't work." Now, he added, things will change.
Instead of issuing a warning, anyone caught riding illegally will be given a citation. "And the parents who knowingly allows the child to ride without a license will also be cited and have to appear in court," the sheriff warned.
"I will find the extra money and schedule extra patrols in the area, too. We will do whatever we have to do," Clark added, "to clean up the problem."