By: PATRICK ALEXANDER
The News Guard
Public safety has become a central topic in arguments concerning Lincoln City’s efforts to bring the Roads End area inside the city limits.
City officials have said Roads End residents benefit from Lincoln City Police Department (LCPD) without contributing toward its costs, adding that the area stands to benefit further from the increased coverage that would come with annexation.
Some Roads End residents have rejected that argument, saying they seldom see Lincoln City officers on their streets and do not require much in the way of law enforcement anyway.
In an Aug. 9 presentation to Lincoln City Council, Roads End resident Maud Krom showed a report from the crimereports.com Web site, indicating that in July 2010 Lincoln City officers responded to just one Roads End incident in comparison to 13 handled by Sheriff’s deputies.
A comparison of dispatch logs from the two agencies tells a different story.
Both the police department and the sheriff’s office were able to provide The News Guard with a log of their responses to Roads End addresses.
However, differences in the way the two agencies manage their records make a straight comparison difficult.
About two years ago, the police department switched to Computer Aided Dispatch, with the aim of reducing the amount of reports that officers have to write and give them more time on the streets.
If no report is written, no record appears in the department’s case summary log.
A review of this log shows that cases dropped significantly in 2009, just after the CAD system came online.
The CAD system preserves details of all officer responses but, unlike the case summary log, is not set up to break those responses down by geographical area, meaning a specific count for Roads End is out of reach.
To get around this discrepancy, The News Guard compared figures for 2007, finding that the police department responded to 28 calls, while the Sheriff’s office dealt with 86.
But even that does not tell the whole story because of another difference in the way the two agencies record their activities.
Police Chief Steven Bechard said the 28 calls recorded in the case summary log all represent responses in which the officer performed some kind of significant action.
As an example, he said, if an officer responds to a boisterous party with underage drinkers and assists the sheriff’s office in taking names and transporting people, the officer would write a report and the incident would be preserved in the case summary log.
In contrast, if an officer provides back up to a deputy responding to a burglar alarm and finds the premises secure – no report.
The Sheriff’s office logs do not make this distinction and include all deputy activities, including animal control and service of criminal and civil court documents.
Remove these two categories and the figure drops to 74 responses, meaning that the police department makes at least one response to Roads End for every three made by the sheriff’s office.
Lt. Dave Carey, patrol commander with the sheriff’s office, said public safety organizations throughout the state help each other out.
“If my nearest deputy is a long ways from Roads End, we are going to ask them (LCPD) to help,” he said, adding: “If a deputy is driving through Lincoln City and one of their officers is going to an emergency call, we will help.”
Indeed, in 2007, the sheriff’s office responded to 400 calls within the city limits.
Carey said that while that might seem like a lot, the majority of these calls were either animal control, which the City pays for directly; or service of civil papers, which is a core duty of sheriff’s offices throughout the state.
Another crucial fact to remember when making comparisons is that Lincoln City residents pay exactly the same taxes toward the sheriff’s office as people who live outside the city limits.
Hawker has said that, in addition to direct responses by Lincoln City police, Roads End residents benefit from being effectively surrounded by city streets, which are patrolled 24/7.
Bechard agreed but added that any such benefit would be impossible to quantify.
“People coming into the city from outside probably don’t even realize that Roads End is not part of the city,” he said.
Carey said it is impossible to pinpoint the extent to which a community benefits from being near to a city with its own police department.
“Any person who lives near the city has a benefit,” he said.
Hawker said the benefit that Roads End residents have received from City police service is small but should serve to focus attention on the value of law enforcement.
He said that, if annexed, the area would benefit not only from better response times but also from regular patrol by Lincoln City officers, something he said should be of great value to an area with so many second homes.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
Patrol deputies – 10
Coverage area – 1194 square miles
Average response time – 15 minutes
Lincoln City Police Department
Patrol officers – 21
Coverage area – 5.4 square miles
Average response time – 7 minutes
The average response time for both agencies includes responses to cold incidents, where quick response is not essential.