Measure supports extra patrols in unincorporated, urban communities

Washington County Sheriff’s Office personnel took a cautious sigh of relief Tuesday night as they watched the general election results unfold.

Washington County residents served by the Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol District supported Measure 34-198.

In unofficial results, residents voted 37,660 in favor, or nearly 52 percent, to renew a five-year local option levy to support expanded patrols that have been in place since 1987. This proposal replaces a levy set to expire on June 30, 2013. Updated results Wednesday showed 34,851 voters, or 48 percent, opposed the funding measure.

“It just continues to be our privilege to serve the 200,000 residents of the district,” said Sheriff Pat Garrett. “While the election outcome was a little tighter than in the past, I want to personally thank the district residents for voting their support.”

The special sheriff’s district primarily affects people within defined urban, unincorporated areas, including Aloha, Bethany, Bull Mountain, Cedar Hills, Cedar Mill, Cooper Mountain, Garden Home, Metzger, Oak Hills, Raleigh Hills and Rock Creek. But the district also includes numerous smaller neighborhoods and individual “island parcels” scattered inside city limits throughout the county. These areas are within the region’s urban growth boundary, but haven’t been annexed to a city. Instead, they receive their urban services through the county or through a combination of special service districts.

This proposal continues a public safety levy that’s been in existence for 25 years. It also protects the jobs of about 60 deputies who focus their patrols within the enhanced district, where they deal with the same types and levels of crime as police officers in neighboring Beaverton, Tigard and Hillsboro.

The cost of this levy is increasing slightly from the previous five-year levy. Property owners within the enhanced district would pay 68 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, up 5 cents from 63 cents with the previous levy. The additional 5 cents per $1,000 will cost the typical homeowner about $12 more per year than he or she is paying now, bringing the bill to $156 for a home assessed at $230,000.

In return, the levy ensures that current law enforcement service levels will be maintained, even with projected population growth, Garrett said. The funds also support investigations of major crimes that occur within the unincorporated communities, including homicide, assault, burglary and domestic violence.

The fact voters supported a tax measure given the state of the economy “means nothing less than the world to us,” Garrett said.

“We will not take that support for granted,” he added. “We know we have to earn that trust every day. We will continue to get up in the morning, work hard and provide great customer service.”

The tough economy was the “uncontrolled variable” in this election. Garrett said the sheriff’s office was grateful for the support it continues to receive from the community, county leaders and partnering police agencies.

“We are probably the luckiest people in the state to be living and working here in Washington County and to enjoy the support we have in these tough economic times,” Garrett said.

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