John Day safe, but behavioral crime outpaces state

John Day Police Chief Richard Gray.

John Day’s rate of significant crime was half the state average in 2016.

The city had 42 percent fewer crimes against people and 59 percent fewer crimes against property, but 35 percent more behavioral crimes than the rest of the state, according to a recent report from the John Day Police Department.

There were no reports of willful murder, negligent homicide, kidnapping, robbery, arson, prostitution or illegal gambling, according to the report. However, rates of driving under the influence of intoxicants were 116 percent higher than the state average, while liquor law violations were 138 percent higher. The department lists drug enforcement and substance abuse prevention as its number one priority.

“Because alcohol and marijuana use is legal and pervasive, it plays a particularly strong role in the relationship to crime and other social problems,” the report said.

The report states substance abuse directly correlates with crime, and many stolen items are often traded for prescription, legal or illicit drugs.

One method the department uses to combat substance abuse is a drug take back box, which processed over 230 pounds of unwanted medication in 2016. The box is located outside of the John Day Police Department and is under 24-hour surveillance.

Animal control is also a significant problem for the community. John Day and Prairie City had 69 animal complaints in 2016 with 13 for attacks on people or other animals.

The department has five vehicles — three Ford Crown Victorias, a Chevy Tahoe and a Chevy Impala — most of which have accumulated high mileage. The city plans on looking into upgrading the vehicles.

The department has four full-time officers and two reserve officers. Collectively, the officers have completed 8,080 hours of training and have 87.5 years of experience.

The city has 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents, the second highest rate of police coverage for small cities in Eastern Oregon, behind only Nyssa with 2.4.

The city spent $447,023 on police services in 2016 with an average cost of $111,756 per officer. These costs are consistent with other police departments with fewer than 10,000 residents in Eastern Oregon, according to the report. For example, Baker City had a yearly budget of $1,800,000 for public safety which equated to roughly $128,571 spent per officer.

The city spends about $900,000 annually on public safety, including the city police department and dispatch center, which covers all of Grant County. In 2015 John Day spent a higher percentage of its property tax revenue on public safety than any other city in Oregon, according to the League of Oregon Cities — nearly three times the percentage Bend spent on public safety.

The state 911 tax covered roughly $248,000 of the $441,100 needed to operate the dispatch center in 2016. This left local taxpayers to pay the roughly $200,000 remainder, according to City Manager Nick Green.

In 2016, the dispatch center received 7,758 calls. John Day police responded to roughly 38 percent of these calls, an 11 percent increase since 2015.

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