Albany officials are poised to get tough -- or tougher -- on abandoned vehicles and houses, and on behavior that drags down the quality of life especially in the central part of town. You might call it a combined campaign against crime and the messes people leave behind.
The city council is considering a batch of new laws proposed by the police. At the top of the list: A complete ban on camping in public places including sidewalks, alleys and under bridges such as the Pacific Boulevard viaduct.
This is to be accompanied by establishing an "enhanced law enforcement area," a kind of exclusion zone covering much of central Albany. People convicted three times of various offenses within the designated territory could be banished from that area for between three months and a year. The area extends from the Willamette River south to Pacific Boulevard, Albany Station and, west of there, 11th Avenue. From west to east, the area extends from Elm Street to Pine Street.
Whether to ban someone from this central part of town would be up to the municipal court. People caught there after being barred would be subject to arrest for a "persistent violation," a misdemeanor.
Police Chief Mario Lattanzio and Kris Schendel, the code enforcement officer in the police department, told the council Monday that the designated area, nine-tenths of a square mile, covers 5 percent of the city's incorporated area but accounts for 19 percent of reported crimes.
The council raised no objections at Monday's work session. It is scheduled to act on those and other proposed laws Wednesday night.
Also scheduled for votes are new city laws shortening the procedures for having abandoned vehicles towed and making sure that abandoned properties are boarded up so tight that squatters have a hard time getting in.
The ordinance on boarding up seems to require that when a house is secured, the sheeting used for windows be of a polycarbonate material that's impossible to shatter -- by tossing a brick, for instance -- and from the outside looks like glass. Beyond that, the ordinance spells out exactly how plywood is to be applied in windows and doors, going into detail as to where to drill holes for bolts.
The police say that unsecured properties contribute to blight and lower property values and can affect public health, safety and the general welfare. Under the proposed law, banks and other owners of abandoned houses would have 14 days to board them up.
At one point Monday, Councilor Bessie Johnson wondered where people living on the street are supposed to go. Mayor Sharon Konopa countered that it does no good to enable vagrants and other homeless people to keep doing what they do, and the only solution is to somehow get them into housing. She cited one man's example to show it can be done. But clearly lots of others haven't managed to do the same. (hh)