A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany’s exclusion-zone law likely will stay

Written June 15th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The red line marks the boundary of Albany’s enhanced law enforcement area.

The Albany City Council has shown no sign of wanting to go along with a request to repeal the city’s “enhanced law enforcement area,” a law it passed three years ago to keep persistent petty criminals out of the central part of town.

At a work session on June 7, the council got a report from Police Chief Marcia Harnden that showed there might have been many occasions for applying the law. But it was used only once, in September 2018, against a 64-year-old man who was ordered to stay out of the area for three months.

The law says anyone convicted of three offenses within the designated area within six months may be expelled from the area for three months to a year, except to reach necessary services. The council passed it in March 2018  in response to a request from the police department.

The exclusion zone in the law extends from Elm to Pine Street, and from Pacific Boulevard and Albany Station to the Willamette  River.

Harnden gave the council numbers from within the area from January 2019 through May 25, 2021: 2,644 incidents or arrests on 3,930 charges ranging from violations to felonies. Forty persons had more than 10 arrests each; eight had more than 20 each; and two had more than 30 each. (The winner had 42 arrests on 73 charges but has not been heard from since early 2020.)

Many of the arrests were for offenses such littering, trespassing, illegal camping, and failure to appear in court.

City Attorney Sean Kidd told the council he thought the law was effective even though it had not been applied in those cases where it might have been. The exclusion can be invoked only after three convictions, not arrests, and municipal court was shut down for a year because of Covid.

There were a “couple of other issues” as well, according to Kidd, but he didn’t want to tell the council about them except in closed, executive session. No such session was called.

The council had asked for Harnden’s report after two people on April 27 asked for a repeal of the law. They are members of the First Christian Church, which is inside the exclusion zone.

The congregation had opposed the enactment in 2018. Their point now was that the law apparently was not needed or doing any good since in all that time it had been invoked only once. (hh)

6 responses to “Albany’s exclusion-zone law likely will stay”

  1. hj.anony1 says:

    Honest Question. Why not expand it to the very city limits. No, really.
    Think about it city wide and all around the perimeter.

    Good trade for $9 a month?

  2. Frank DeLacroix says:

    A solution in search of a problem. No wonder it occupies so much time and consideration.

  3. James Engel says:

    A band-aid fix for sure. All bark & no teeth! In my day on patrol we’d just shove’em in the back seat, drive out to the old Simpson lumber lot in Millersburg & pull’em out! Problem solved for the time being…and that’s all we could do. Some may have gotten as far as Jefferson to make sure they didn’t come back any time soon. Me bad & happily retired!

  4. JJ Jack John Johnny Jaques Hartman says:

    This poorly conceived law, designed to soothe the souls of those offended by the Great Unwashed, is proven ineffective, largely unused, rarely enforced and essentially unconstitutional. In the end, the cops don’t want to enforce, the Prosecutors don’t want to prosecute. The statute sits idling on the books, unused, making a mockery of the rule of law. Citizens understand the avariciousness of this law – a law no one (except Downtown Business Association types) ever asked for. Even the Chief of Police can only say that “there might have been several occasions for applying the law.” In the end, this onerous decree was used just once. City Attorney, Sean Kidd, in a fit of Orwellian logic thought that the law “was effective even though it had not been applied in those cases where it might have been.” A ringing endorsement if ever there were one.

    In short, we have an unnecessary law created to fix an alleged problem, unenforced and broadly ignored, mindlessly enshrined into the City’s future.

    • Rich Kellum says:

      JJ et al……..
      As I remember sir you were the guy who complained vociferously about people staying in Walmart’s parking lot, so much so that you called the Councilors names because we would not have the offenders thrown in prison…. talking about both sides of your mouth.

      • JJ Jack-of-All Trades Johnny Jack Hartman says:

        The tourists who adorn the Walmart parking lot reside in any number of $50-thousand dollars and up Motorhomes, Airstream trailers and Mercedes Sprinter conversions. They each have a generator so that the occupants can have their morning coffee without breaking a sweat. Hardly comparable to persons living on the street, struggling just to stay warm overnight without the benefit of built-in furnaces and flush toilets. If ever there was someone confusing apples and oranges, that would be the person who wrote before he thought.


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