The additional funds would be used only to prevent and combat commercial crime
TIGARD - Police Chief Bill Dickinson on Tuesday floated an idea for tackling commercial crime, and the City Council has agreed to look into the issue.
The city has not raised its business tax rate since it was implemented in 1988, but with some fairly modest across-the-board increases, the police department could start up a commercial crime unit, according to Dickinson.
He told council members during a study session that the city's commercial and industrial areas accounted for 46 percent of all reported crime in 2006, and of the 2,098 major crimes, 51 percent occurred in those targeted areas.
Furthermore, larceny represents 80.4 percent of all major crimes in the target areas, and robbery was up 18 cases or a 180 percent increase from 2005.
'There's a gap between Measure 11 and minor offenses, and those crimes are mostly driven by the commercial areas,' Dickinson said. 'The officers make arrests, but they don't have time to follow up because they're chasing after more 9-1-1 calls.
'Robberies are almost exclusively a commercial crime. Our detectives handle the high-end crimes, and the patrol officers handle what they can. We don't have a plain-clothes unit to deal with crime.'
A special commercial crime unit as proposed by Dickinson could not only follow up on crimes, but officers could contact businesses and work with owners on crime prevention measures and problem solving, according to Dickinson.
As for funding the special unit, Dickinson said, 'There's definitely a connection between the funding source and service.'
Residences contribute 62.45 percent of the property taxes collected, while multi-family units pay 6.49 percent, commercial enterprises pay 27.98 percent, and industry pays 3.08 percent, Dickinson said.
With the city's businesses accounting for 36 percent of all calls for service in 2006, the residents are supporting police resources that deal with commercial crime, according to Dickinson.
He told the council that an annual budget of $350,000 would be the absolute minimum amount needed to start a commercial crime unit with two officers and a supervisor, although 'the ideal would be five plus a supervisor.'
Dickinson worked with Tom Imdieke, the city's former financial options manager who is a consultant to the police department, to crunch the numbers on various scenarios to fund the police unit, and Imdieke presented four options to the council.
He pointed out that the current business tax generates $207,000 for the general fund, and home-based businesses account for 408 out of the 3,200 registered businesses in the city
Currently, the rate for businesses with zero to 10 employees is $55 per year, the rate for 11 to 50 employees is $110, and the rate for businesses with 51 or more employees is $220.
The first scenario would be to increase those rates to $150 per year, $300 and $600 to raise $564,450 annually or $357,485 additional revenue.
The other three scenarios broke businesses into more categories - zero to two employees, three to five, six to 10, 11 to 50, and 51-plus. In the second option, the rates for those five categories would be $75, $100, $325, $525 and $725, which would raise $560,150 annually or $353,185 additional income.
In the third option, home-based businesses would pay $55, and the other categories would pay the same amounts as in the second option to raise $549,340 annually or $342,375 additional income.
The fourth option would charge the same rates as in the third one but would also charge apartment complexes at a base rate of $55 plus $5 per unit after the first five units to raise $572,077 or $365,112 additional income
'This is about feasibility and equitability,' Imdieke said. 'We tried to minimize the impact to smaller businesses - 86 percent of the businesses would pay less than $100 per year. Only 2.6 percent of the city's businesses have 51 or more employees. And all non-profits would be exempt.'
Councilor Sydney Sherwood, who is the executive director of the Good Neighbor Center, said that she was opposed to establishing rates for apartments, and the other councilors agreed.
'But this could act as a basis to start a conversation with the business community,' she said.
Councilor Tom Woodruff made a point of saying that the concept is an idea, not a proposal, because he didn't think people would be happy with the city raising business taxes after recently implementing a 3-cents-per-gallon gas tax to fund improvements to the Pacific Highway/Greenburg Road/Main Street intersection.
'This is an idea we float up the flagpole, and if we don't get the support for it, then we don't do it,' Woodruff said, and Mayor Craig Dirksen and Councilor Gretchen Buehner agreed.
Dickinson pointed out that if the business tax had originally had a cost-of-living increase built into it, 'we'd be at the (proposed) level now.'
City Manager Craig Prosser told the council that funding a commercial crime unit is not in the proposed 2007-08 budget, but 'hopefully, this will gain the business community's support, and then the Budget Committee can decide what to do.'
The council told Dickinson to go forth and start talking to business people in the community, including the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce.
Crime Spotter program now on city's Web site
TIGARD - Do you wonder if there's criminal activity going on in your neighborhood? Is your business in a high-crime area?
The answers to these and other questions are at your fingertips if you log on to the city of Tigard's Web site and click on the new Crime Spotter option.
Crime Spotter is a map-based tool providing general information about criminal activity in the city.
It provides a visual representation of where crimes have occurred using a 12-month database that was created specifically on the Web, and the database is updated with new crime data each month.
Crime Spotter works by entering in an address or street name, which in turn generates a summary of certain crimes within a 1-mile area of the address.
Crime Spotter displays only reported crimes that result in a police report. The summary total crime grid and corresponding chart display all related crimes.
Crime locations are displayed as points on the map, and symbols are used to distinguish the different types of crime.
A table includes the following information on each crime: the case number, the address, the date and time of occurrence and the type of crime.
There are also links to additional crime-related information in Washington County and the cities of Beaverton and Portland.