BEND, OR -- Bend Police Chief Jim Porter took a lot of heat at last week’s City Council meeting, when a number of business owners complained about transients harassing customers, vandalism and other problems. Chief Porter acknowledges there are issues. He tells KBND News a growing population brings an increase in crime. "Many of our issues downtown are related to mental health, addiction issues and homelessness. So, we’re trying to deal with an entire social problem with just law enforcement and we can’t do that."
But, he says he’s trying to address the concerns. "We’ve been engaging over the past year, meeting with the merchants downtown, coming together. We did a survey downtown to see what the needs were. Now, we’re trying to locate the funding throughout the city to actually support those needs and we believe we do have some funding sources to help. Because, we can only do the enforcement section; there’s some physical changes that have to be made to the downtown area." He says those changes could deter criminal activity downtown, to "make that less comfortable and make it so that it’s actually more usable for the majority of the people in Bend. We have garbage enclosures down there; we need to do something with those. Those become a haven for needles, for people doing elicit acts downtown, we need to fix those. Now, that take money, takes time and it takes a contractor to do that." He says the city now has an engineer available to help, and he's hopeful an increase in tax revenue since the recession will pay for safety improvements.
Chief Porter also admits his department is understaffed, "We’re a city who’s trying to balance the needs of roads, sewer, water and police. All of those you need, and we’re playing catch-up now, because we’re finally – our tax revenue is catching up and we can do that. One of my challenges is, my patrol teams are six officers and a sergeant. Our staffing plan is to have nine officers on per shift." However, that hiring process takes time. Porter says it takes nearly a year to get a new officer fully trained. He says two more rookies are headed to the police academy in September.
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