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Sheriff's Office Cut Backs Cause Community Concern

Effective July 31, 2022, Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers announced the Sheriff's Office will be reducing patrol deputy response to non-criminal calls for service and certain lower-level criminal complaints. The reduction in service is due to an extraordinarily low number of certified/sworn deputies available to handle emergency calls. Deputies will be focusing primarily on responding to emergency and in-progress calls for service. “We have been evaluating this situation for over a year and it doesn’t seem to be improving” stated Sheriff Curtis Landers. “We have multiple contracts and a taxing district for law enforcement services that we need to uphold.”

Bruce Polvi owner of Lincoln City Sporting goods and electronics reports that firearms sales have increased within the last week since the Sheriff's announcement. He said customers from across Lincoln County have said they are worried about keeping themselves and their property safe with the Sheriff's Office cutbacks and not responding to property crimes. People are now purchasing self defense tools such as bear spray, tazers, stun guns and batons. Polvi added he is also getting more inquiries about gun safety classes and firearm training.

Some examples of non-criminal calls that will no longer receive deputy response include:

•     Noise complaints (including barking dogs) when there are no animal services deputies on duty

•     Camping complaints

•     Civil disputes

•     Home or business alarms

•     General welfare checks

•     Drug complaints that are based on personal use amounts

•     Non-criminal traffic crashes will generally not receive deputy response

Criminal complaints involving minor property crimes with no suspects will be referred to our online reporting system. Citizens can expect delays from deputies contacting them to provide a case number.

In addition to the County’s regular service area, which includes all areas outside the cities of Lincoln City, Newport, and Toledo, the Sheriff’s Office also provides contractual enhanced law enforcement services for:

•     The City of Waldport (two deputies)

•     The Siletz Law Enforcement District (one deputy funded by a voter-approved tax district and one paid by the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians)

•     A Forest Deputy

•     Two Marine Deputies, primarily funded by the State Marine Board

•     A School Resource Deputy covering Toledo, and Waldport schools, half funded by the Lincoln County School District

“We are very fortunate to have these contracts and we want to make sure we are fulfilling them. Even if we have every position filled and trained, twelve patrol deputies is not enough to fulfill our mission to enhance public safety, reduce the fear and impact of crime, and improve quality of life” said Sheriff Landers. The number of patrol deputies funded by the general fund has relatively stayed the same over the last 30 years as the County population and calls for service continued to grow. Sheriff Landers stated, “If not for the multiple contracts, our patrol staffing would not have increased over the years.”

The limited deputies available and resources needed throughout the County creates pressure for deputies to be promptly available for the most urgent needs. “We were spreading our resources too thin and were unable to adequately and consistently uphold our commitments. Deputies assigned to contract areas will no longer be able to assist outside of their contract areas except for emergency situations,” said Sheriff Landers. The cause of the Sheriff’s Office depleted staffing can be attributed to multiple factors. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has twelve patrol deputy positions funded by the county’s general fund for nearly 1000 square miles of patrol area in Lincoln County.

Due to staffing turnover (retirements, normal attrition, deputies transferring to other areas, or leaving the law enforcement profession) combined with past hiring restrictions caused by county budget constraints, the Sheriff’s Office is not able to maintain staffing at adequate levels. Currently the Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has five patrol deputies in training and three vacant positions. It takes approximately one year for a deputy to complete training and begin patrolling on solo status.

Deputies will be reprioritizing their available time for emergency response, including life and property threatening situations. Sheriff Landers stated, “We want our deputies to be proactive again which will help reduce crime. Responding to every call we receive spreads our resources very thin and makes us unable to be proactive and able to respond to in-progress emergency situations. We hope this will improve service to those most threatening situations."

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