In Medford, police say crime is on the rise

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Crime in Medford has shot up significantly the past six years, according to police.

Data provided by Medford police showed that the number of reported Type-1 crimes in 2012 — felony offenses that include homicides, robberies and assaults — has increased in every category compared with 2006.

In that year, for example, 3,190 thefts were reported. By 2012, thefts had risen to 3,885. Robberies climbed from 42 in 2006 to 70 in 2012. There were 1,039 assaults in 2006; 1,580 in 2012.

Law enforcement officials attribute the shift to several factors, including the increasing use of illegal drugs, jail overcrowding, and a decrease in substance abuse treatment and mental health services, The Mail Tribune reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/WP7fdA).

"If you don't smack it when it starts happening, it will fester," Medford police Chief Tim George said.

Hoping to prevent that festering, police and prosecutors are cracking down on gang and drug activity, keeping a law enforcement presence in public schools, and changing the way prosecutors handle repeat offenders.

For the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement unit, or MADGE, 2012 was a record year in terms of amount of drugs seized. MADGE officers hauled in 101 pounds and 5 ounces of methamphetamine, almost a 300 percent jump when compared with 2011.

"It is over the top," George said. "The importation of methamphetamine into this state, into this county, from our southern borders is outrageous."

There were 1,914 drug-related offenses reported in 2012, a 73 percent increase over the 1,105 offenses reported in 2006.

Lt. Brett Johnson of MADGE said meth and heroin remain the most troubling. Methamphetamine fuels violent crimes, he added.

"Meth will drive a lot of domestic violence," Johnson said. "Paranoia and the things that go along with that. You don't trust your wife or significant other, and all of a sudden it becomes a violent episode."

In 2006, one homicide was reported, along with 1,039 assaults. Those numbers rose to five homicides and 1,580 assaults for 2012.

Drug addiction is an expensive habit, one that leads to theft as addicts search for ways to pay.

"Most of us have a coffee habit," Johnson said. "But imagine if you have a $100 heroin habit and you're not gainfully employed. How do you pay for it?"

State and federal budget cuts in mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment programs have a direct effect on local programs and local demands on police.

Stacy Brubaker, division manager for Jackson County Mental Health, said cuts from Oregon's last legislative session resulted in the layoffs of 10 people and reduced service levels with several contracted providers.

"The direct impact of that for us were the layoffs last spring," she said. "Even with that said, we still have continued to provide services."

Reduced services translate to increased calls to police — Medford police responded to 664 mental health calls in 2012.

George added that Medford police planned to continue its suppression methods against gang presence and drugs. The department also will continue to utilize its six school resource officers for crime prevention among students.

"Those three things are going to be what we focus on in 2013," George said.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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