This is the first in a series on local crime and is from an outside contributor.
It’s an old saw rooted in solid country wisdom. Sooner or later, if you make enough wrong turns, you twist yourself into a place where you can’t get to where you want to go, and finding your way back is more than just an easy fix. Your first response is “Where the hell am I, and how the hell did I get here?”
Like the arrow on the Boardwalk map, we are here. We have a crime problem in our area. A pretty big one. And it’s reached the point where we have to address it with more than political platitudes and excuses. Locally, our police and District Attorney’s office have been forced to adjust their response to an already high crime issue, by further having that response restricted with State edicts from both the Governor’s Office and Legislature for quite some time now. Somewhere along the line, the focus morphed from protecting society at large to protecting the perpetrators of the crimes that society needs protecting from. That mental gymnastic is a pretty precise explanation of the political process in general, and of our State in particular.
Solving our community’s crime problem is akin to navigating a maze in a blindfold. You take one step at a time, get used to hitting walls and feel your way as you go, hoping eventually you’ll find your way further toward a solution before running out of energy or losing your mind. Knowing where you are, how you got there, where you’re headed and where you want to be helps lessen the pain, and at very least provides some direction.
At present, according to the latest crime statistics available from www.neighborhoodscout.com for 2021, Coos Bay as a whole enjoys a crime index rating of two. That translates into our hometown being overall safer than 2 percent of the rest of the country based on population. Or put more plainly, 98 percent of the country is safer than we are. 85 violent crimes and 793 property crimes realized a crime rate or 5.32% and 49.55% per 1000 residents respectively. Your chances of becoming a victim of violent crime are 1 in 188 locally as opposed to 1 in 342 for Oregon as a whole. Property crime probability is 1 in 20 as opposed to 1 in 38 for the State. We have 83 crimes per square mile while the rest of the state enjoys only 55. On the upside, crime has actually dropped. That is at least, cheery news. Unless you happen to be a participant in the data. Bear in mind that is reported crime only. Listed from safest to least safest neighborhoods, Coos Bay lines up as follows:
-Lakeshore Drive/Seagate Ave
-Empire Coos Bay Hwy/Woodland Dr
Police and prosecutors are on the streets and in the office, working short staffed and overtime doing what they can to provide coverage and clear a pile of case backlogs built up over the years. Budgetary funding constraints and general dissatisfaction with current policies have led to cuts and loss of personnel. Softening of laws and penalties, limited available jail cells and closing of correctional and mental health housing have led to an encouraged criminal element, and an exploding population of indigent people committing more crimes and further draining the facilities and resources our communities have available. Covid restrictions also play a part, but this decline has been far from a current situation. Class C misdemeanors were ordered reduced to citable offenses back in 2016 by the DA’s office (reputedly in response to legislative influences), creating a catch and release system that sees a large percentage of criminals instantly returned to the streets who subsequently fail to show up for court dates, using already stressed police resources to pick them up again and restart a criminal self- fulfilling prophecy. We live with the monsters we have created and tolerate.
Clearly, the trend toward a kinder, gentler response to crime and criminals has been a massive mistake on the part of the people upstairs making the decisions, particularly the release of prisoners from jails already convicted of crimes behind the excuse of Covid, the closing of prisons that are obviously sorely needed, and the legalization and enabling of hard drug usage that solves nothing but where and how an addict can get his or her next fix, makes recruitment of new addicts far easier, and contributes to an already burgeoning indigent population, a percentage of whom are responsible for the biggest percentage of property crimes, vandalism, and petty theft. Not to mention making Oregon a new vacation spot for the Mexican Cartel gangs taking advantage of a gifted additional customer base and hugely profitable funding stream. Defunding or short funding the law enforcement expected to most visibly solve the problems created by poor decision making and lack of support multiplies the effect exponentially. Stark evidence was the politically inspired and encouraged burning and looting of buildings and businesses, physical attacks, intimidation, murder and general mayhem witnessed in the last year under the guise of social justice.
We enjoyed a local taste of those antics last summer, which were largely kept peaceful by the presence of citizen groups and local police making very clear optical statements that Freedom of Speech and the Right to Assemble were protected, but coloring outside the lines of those rights wouldn’t be shown the same favor as in other areas. Proof of the successful social dynamic of the citizens and the police working together in support of a shared goal. Sadly, politicization has embedded itself into that dynamic, as in almost every aspect of daily life nowadays, with similar results across the board- general alienation of appreciation and a fundamental disconnect.
What do you do when you can’t get there from here? Pick a different destination.
-by Teddy Miccolotti