The Dalles eyes exclusion zones to root out 'repeat offenders' amid homeless population

Exclusion zones would allow a person to be banned from the area for 90 days if they're formally accused of committing any of a long list of minor or major offenses within that zone.

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THE DALLES, Ore. — City councilors in The Dalles are considering creating two “civil exclusion zones” in the community’s downtown core that would allow them to ban a person from that area for 90 days if they’re formally accused of committing any of a long list of minor or major offenses within that zone.

Officials said Sunday the ordinance draft, scheduled for an initial discussion at Monday night’s city council meeting, is an attempt to curb impacts of homelessness in The Dalles and, according to a staff report issued with the council agenda, “address ... aggressive panhandling and loitering in tourist and shopping areas.”

It’s a population that, within Wasco County, has spiked 315 percent in the last two years, said Councilor Tim McGlothlin.

Mayor Steve Lawrence said he feels like the surge in the homeless population is coming from a large city to the west of The Dalles.

"We feel very strongly that we're getting it from Portland," he said.

According to that staff report, the ordinance, if passed, would create two zones.

Labeled “Zone #1” and “Zone #2”, they’re shown on the maps below.

 

According to the draft, currently in its infancy, a person could be banned from either zone if they’re “cited to appear, arrested or otherwise taken into custody" for committing any of two dozen listed offenses within that zone’s boundaries.

Those are:

  • A. Any assault, as defined by ORS 163.160 through 163.185, and ORS 163.208.
  • B. Strangulation, as defined by ORS 163.187.
  • C. Menacing, as defined by ORS 163.190.
  • D. Harassment, as defined by ORS 166.065.
  • E. Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree, as defined by ORS 166.025.
  • F. Recklessly endangering another person, as defined by ORS 163.195.
  • G. Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree, as defined by ORS 164.245.
  • H. Any sexual offense, as defined by ORS 163.355 through 163.465.
  • I. Endangering the welfare of a minor, as defined by ORS 163.575.
  • J. Unlawful use of marijuana or marijuana items in a public place, as defined by ORS 475B.280.
  • K. Unlawful possession of marijuana or a marijuana product by any person under the age of 21 years, as defined in ORS 475.684.
  • L. Any offense under state law governing the possession, use, distribution or sale of alcoholic beverages.
  • M. Drinking in a public place as defined by General Ordinance No. 93-1175, section 2.
  • N. Possession or using a weapon in violation of ORS 166.180, 166.190, 166.220, 166.240, 166.250, 166,272, or General Ordinance No. 93-1175, section 5.
  • O. Discharge of a weapon within the city limits, as defined by General Ordinance No. 93-1175, section 4.
  • P. Any degree of criminal mischief, as defined by ORS 163.305 through 164.365.
  • Q. A graffiti-related offense, as defined in ORS 164.381 through 164.386.
  • R. Arson or reckless burning as defined in ORS 164.305 through 164.335.
  • S. Theft as defined in ORS 164.015 through 164.095.
  • T. Littering as defined in ORS 164.775 through 164.805.
  • U. Possession of tobacco by a minor in violation of ORS 167.400.
  • V. Entry onto or remaining on public property within the boundaries of the exclusion zones described in Section 1, when the property is closed to the public between the hours of 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM.
  • W. Public Indecency as defined in ORS 163.465.
  • X. Illegal camping on public property as defined in Section 18 of General Ordinance No. 93-1162.

It’s worth noting, city officials Monday are also presenting a proposed amendment to city code, explicitly banning camping on public property within city limits.

Lawrence said the ordinance will make people accountable for their actions.

"We have people who go to the bathroom in public, and we have people who go on private property. We have people who commit acts of violence," the mayor said. "People should be held responsible for their conduct. ... If their conduct requires them to be removed from an area, that's based on their conduct, not on anything we've prejudged."

According to the “exclusion zone” draft, if the alleged offender is caught returning to the exclusion zone during the 90-day period, they would additionally be charged with second degree trespassing.

The staff report elaborates by saying the move “will not allow repeat offenders to be in a specific area.”

Two business owners said they are skeptical of the exclusion zone and said it has the potential to be harsh. Diane Buckley, who owns J & D's Cup of Mud with James Cyphers, said they have seen a lot more kids hanging around, looking to stay warm and looking for money or food.

Both said they were interested in how they could be part of the solution.

"How do we help them so that they're not on the streets," Buckley said.

"I would like to lend a hand in any way I can, being a business owner," Cyphers said. "I don't want to shoo them off."

VIDEO: Dalles couple asks, 'How can we help' the homeless population?

The draft sets aside exceptions, allowing the accused offender to return if they must enter the zone to obtain social or medical services, appear in court or go to work, among other possibilities.

It also allows gives the accused 5 days to appeal their “exclusion” and stipulates a municipal court judge can “grant a variance” to the exclusion if the defendant can prove they live or need to obtain social or medical services within the zone. The proposal is not without controversy.

An article in ‘The Dalles Chronicle’, which first reported on the proposal, lead with the headline “Council eyes homeless ban"

Councilor McGlothlin Saturday took issue with such characterizations, telling KGW via phone “That’s not what this is.”

James 'Jimbo' Stover, a man who has lived homeless in The Dalles for years, said it's a newer crop of younger, more aggressive campers that are causing problems.

"They cuss at elders. They spit on little kids," he said. "I agree with exclusion zones. They got caught there, they evidently don't need to be there. Go to a spot where you can be and they'll leave you alone."

VIDEO: Mayor Steve Lawrence says exclusion zones 'complicated', but necessary

Monday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at city hall. It is open to the public.

While officials are set to discuss the idea, no vote is currently scheduled.

RELATED: City Council Meeting Agenda (read pages 57-67)

The Dalles, Ore., City Council Agenda, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 by KGW News on Scribd

© 2017 KGW-TV


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