In late 2017, the Keizer City Council enacted two $4 fees supporting police and park services.
After two full years of fee collection, the fees have paid for $1.3 million in parks improvements and given the Keizer Police Department the leeway to focus on underlying problems rather than running from fire to fire.
Keizer Police Chief John Teague and Bill Lawyer and Robert Johnson, of Keizer Public Works, prepared reports for the budget season that didn’t get as much airing as anticipated during budget talks. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a different set of discussions and took the focus off the fees. At one point earlier in the year, there were talks of escalating the police fee and one city councilor floated the idea of reducing the parks fee to accommodate the increase for police services.
“The fee lets us do two things,” wrote Teague. “It provides resources to night shift patrols and for traffic enforcement, both necessary whether we have the fee or not, but not at the expense of preventing crime. “It also supplies … stratified responsibility, crime analysis and dedicated policing focused on identifying and solving underlying crime and disorder problems.”
About a decade ago, KPD officers began moving to problem-oriented policing. The goal is solving root problems rather than reacting to calls for service in isolation. Doing so puts the responsibility for recognizing trends and directing resources on lieutenants rather than patrol officers that “lack the time to spend with problems, the ability to access and move resources and the multidisciplinary authority to solve persistent problems.”
At a recent meeting of the KPD Citizen’s Academy, Lt. Andrew Copeland detailed how this works on even non-violent, yet persistent, problems: “We had a house where we got consistent calls about a runaway, along the lines of 60 calls a month. We brought together all of the stakeholders and had a meeting and it turned out that the kids involved loved police officers. We told them that, if they could improve their behavior, we would come out and visit them and arrange for some other activities. We had zero calls to that residence after the meeting.”
In less abstract terms, the fee pays for an additional officer on each of KPD’s night shifts (two total), an additional traffic team supervisor and traffic safety officer and a property crime detective that has produced “a very pleasant, safe-feeling city.”
While there are disagreements about how traffic issues complicate life in Keizer, Teague cited research findings that “strategic, focused enforcement of traffic laws” can prevent crime.
Additional officers on the night shift meant an end to some delays in responding to crime that happens in the wee hours. Prior to the fee, KPD had two major instances in which a lack of officers resulted in delayed responses. One incident involved a would-be burglar getting stuck in a broken window and another in which a drunken man entered the home of a family while they slept.
The addition of a property crime detective gave the department capacity to conduct some property crimes investigations that were “growing stale,” according to Teague. While other departments do not investigate such crimes,, “today, in Keizer, no property crime goes uninvestigated.”
While it can be difficult to quantify a unit of safety, Keizer Public Works had a much easier time laying out how fees have bolstered Keizer’s parks offerings.
While the police fee produced five new jobs, the parks fee created two of its own with the hiring of two, additional parks employees.
The fee also paid to create a new play area for Meadows Park; a refurbishing of Carlson Skate Park that led to an explosion of new use; replacement sports courts in Bob Newton Park, Claggett Creek Park, Willamette Manor Park and Northview Terrace Park; Resurfaced and widened pathways throughout the 19-park system, a replacement roof for the gazebo in Chalmers Jones Park and new equipment that has meant greater upkeep through Keizer in terms of mowing and other maintenance.