ashland.news
July 14, 2024

Serious crime rate trending down in Ashland, report says

Rates of serious crime in Ashland fell significantly in 2023 after an uptick in 2022. The serious "Part 1" crimes, as listed by the FBI, are: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft, arson and larceny.
June 19, 2024

Ashland police share rate of use of force and discuss citations in dusk-to-dawn camping area 

By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news

The Ashland Police Department used force less often in 2023 while responding to more calls for service and began enforcing the city’s new camping ordinance according to an expansive report from Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara at the council study session Monday. 

“Less than one half of one percent of our cases an APD officer had to use force, I think that’s pretty good,” O’Meara said. 

APD investigated 2,636 cases, responded to 32,753 calls for service and used force 11 times in 2023. Calls for service rose from 29,073 the previous year while caseload remained roughly constant with 2,650 cases in 2022, according to meeting materials. 

All 11 incidents were found to be within the use of force policy. A taser was displayed but not used once and once an officer displayed a firearm but did not use it. The majority of cases involved “empty-handed techniques such as takedowns, joint locks, control holds and empty-handed strikes,” according to meeting materials. 

Officers also received 977 hours of use of force training and all incidents are tracked by the Guardian software used by APD. When an officer uses force or is involved in a traffic accident even if they are not at fault, there is a corresponding, “early warning for officer so and so,” in the system to track which officers are using force in what context, O’Meara said. 

The Ashland City Council listens to Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara deliver an annual report at the Ashland City Council on Monday. Screen capture from RVTV video

Grouped together, homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft, arson and larceny have seen an overall downward trend. In 2023, APD responded to 342 such crimes, while in 2022 it responded to 526, and 421 in 2021. The clearance rate — or rate of solving crimes — also rose to 69% from 68% last year. 

The steadiest crime centered around the Enhanced Law Enforcement Area downtown and the Exit 14 area on the south side of town. Presenting data for both regions, O’Meara said crime downtown is trending down slightly and is still largely “bad behaviors” such as consuming marijuana or alcohol in public and public urination. 

 While some have wondered about creating a secondary ELEA for the south side of Ashland, O’Meara advocated waiting to see if the new police presence in the area makes an impact. 

APD began renting a portion of the previous Sud & Duds coin laundry space in Tolman Creek Plaza at 2345 Ashland St. No. 103 with intent to open a new location for officers in March, according to previous reporting by Ashland.news. 

O’Meara was instructed by council to report crime data and estimated efficacy of the new police location in six months. 

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara delivered an annual report to the Ashland City Council on Monday. Screen capture from RVTV video

Councilor Bob Kaplan pressed O’Meara on data presented during public comment by Debbie Niesewander, an advocate for homeless people. Neisewander said she reviewed the monthly activity logs for APD in 2024 and found 51 citations for prohibited camping on the city’s dusk-to-dawn or night lawn camping area and 27 elsewhere in the city. 

“I would have thought that what we’re trying to do is (have) people concentrated on the night lawn and hopefully they’re not getting a citation. I would like to know what they’re being cited for,” Kaplan said. 

O’Meara said that information was not included in this report because he did not understand it to be requested. Generally speaking, the night lawn is the city’s obligation on the 9th circuit court ruling to provide those with nowhere to go somewhere to camp. But outside the hours posted, the area is “simply another piece of property the city owns,” O’Meara said. 

“It may seem counterintuitive to say, ‘I got a citation on the lawn where Chief O’Meara told me to camp’ — OK, but we also have communicated the rules very clearly. … Outside of that and outside of some discretion that the on duty police officer can exercise, if it’s raining or whatnot, or there’s some other extenuating circumstances, then you can’t be there and being there is just as unlawful as pitching your tent in Lithia Park,” he said. 

Kaplan stated discretion created room for problems if rules were not being applied uniformly. 

“If some of the officers are giving more wiggle room than other officers are, as long as everybody is operating within the framework provided by the council and they’re doing it in an ethical professional manner, that’s all I can ask for and I will defend that. … I do not want to have a department where people are not allowed to use discretion and not allowed to analyze the situation at hand and make the appropriate decision in the moment,” he said. 

Kaplan stated he was concerned these numbers suggest the city’s ordinance may not be effective from a policy standpoint. 

Enforcement actions across the board at APD result in enforcement action less than 50% of the time, including prohibited camping ordinance, O’Meara said. He has heard the frustration from Night Lawn guests and advocates and police are adapting to the situation. The ordinance is new which creates a smaller amount of data that could be difficult to decipher. 

“This is a work in progress for all of us, it’s an evolving situation for all of us and I’m not going to say that the PD has this more dialed in than anybody else does. … The Night lawn and this new ordinance generally do what they’re supposed to do. It’s very bulky, it’s unattractive sometimes, it’s not fun to look at sometimes, but in general it does what it’s supposed to do,” he said. 

For more information on APD activity, visit the department’s page. 

Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at morganr@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Related Posts...

‘Telling the American narrative’: SOU to conduct archaeological investigations of historic eastern Oregon logging town this fall

With a newly funded $20,000 grant from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, some Southern Oregon University’s Sociology and Anthropology Program students and staff will travel to eastern Oregon this fall to perform archaeological excavations for a logging ghost town that once was home to a diverse community in the early 20th century, including African-American and white loggers.

Read More »

Latest posts

‘Telling the American narrative’: SOU to conduct archaeological investigations of historic eastern Oregon logging town this fall

With a newly funded $20,000 grant from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, some Southern Oregon University’s Sociology and Anthropology Program students and staff will travel to eastern Oregon this fall to perform archaeological excavations for a logging ghost town that once was home to a diverse community in the early 20th century, including African-American and white loggers.

Read More >

Explore More...

As fall approaches, the Ashland Independent Film Festival volunteers and coordinators prepare for the festival's triumphant return to the Rogue Valley. With a new executive director, the festival is set to involve plenty of new ideas, events and programs while maintaining the classic film festival experience.
With a newly funded $20,000 grant from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, some Southern Oregon University’s Sociology and Anthropology Program students and staff will travel to eastern Oregon this fall to perform archaeological excavations for a logging ghost town that once was home to a diverse community in the early 20th century, including African-American and white loggers.
“Don’t let your inability to do everything stop you from doing one thing. And reckoning with racial injustice in the United States is a big task.” That was what Taylor Stewart, Oregon Remembrance Project founder, said in the Ashland Sunrise Project’s latest talk, “Uncovering Difficult Truths.”
A crossword about local news sources. Solve it directly in the article or download a PDF to print. More crosswords under the Culture menu.
The Siskiyou Crest Coalition is hosting a fundraiser Saturday afternoon, July 13, at a private conserved property on the slopes of Mount Ashland owned by Mark Newberger. A butterfly species list is being compiled for the property, which will be the subject of an upcoming article in the North American Butterfly Association magazine and will be a nominee for NABA butterfly garden of the year. 
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.