Approximately 200,000 people in Washington County are in need of a big-city police department, but don’t happen to reside within a city boundary.

For these residents of urbanized — but still unincorporated — portions of Washington County, the answer to their policing problem has come in the form of enhanced patrols from the sheriff’s office. In the November election, voters will be asked to renew a five-year levy to support expanded patrols that have been in place since 1987.

For the sake of public safety, they should say yes to this request.

The special sheriff’s districts primarily affect people within defined unincorporated areas east of us, including Aloha, Bethany, Cooper Mountain, Cedar Mill, Raleigh Hills, Metzger and Bull Mountain. But the districts also include numerous smaller neighborhoods and individual “island parcels” scattered inside city limits throughout the county — including more than 100 parcels in Forest Grove.

A few years back, Forest Grove city officials successfully persuaded dozens of property owners to voluntarily allow their parcels to be annexed. The county levy offers a great argument for the city to take the next step and force the annexation of the remaining islands, which add up to about 75 acres of land inside the city limits.

Such a move would be unpopular with a handful of these propoerty owners, who are clustered east of Sunset Drive. But it would make sense for everyone else.

Under the current arrangement, if someone living in one of these unicorporated parcels calls 911 to report a break-in, a Forest Grove cop is likely to show up, since the practice is to send the closest patrol car, regardless of which agency staffs it. But, once the initial call is taken, the Forest Grove officer has to hand the case over to a sheriff's deputy for follow-up.

And, what if one of those residents gets tagged by grafitti? Even though the Forest Grove officers are familiar with local gang tags, that case will be handled by the county.

Now, because the city and county have a great working relationship, property owners are well-served. But, the rest of the taxpayers are forced to fund a dual policing system that is needlessly inneficient.

Forest Grove isn't alone.

All the areas in the enhanced patrol district are within the region’s urban growth boundary, but haven’t been annexed to a city. So, they receive their urban services through the county or through a hodgepodge of special service districts.

A blend of service territories isn’t necessarily the most elegant or efficient way for local governments to provide urban and suburban residents with water and sewer systems, fire protection, recreational services and police patrols. But in Washington County, this is the system that’s evolved for delivery of urban amenities outside of cities. And in some places — such as Aloha, Bethany and Cedar Mill, it makes a lot of sense.

That’s why until these urban areas are annexed by a city, residents of the Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol Districts should be eager to support Measure 34-198. This proposal continues a levy that’s been in existence for 25 years. It will protect the jobs of about 60 deputies who focus their patrols within the enhanced districts.

The cost of this levy is increasing slightly from the previous five-year levy. Property owners within the enhanced districts would pay 68 cents per $1,000 of assessed value vs. 63 cents with the previous levy. The additional 5 cents per $1,000 would 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.

That's a chunk of change, but the reduction in public safety and quality of life would come at a much higher cost.

We encourage voters to say "yes" to Measure 34-198.

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