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Study: Josephine County Facing Long-Term Law Enforcement Gap

Josephine County Sheriff's Office webpage

Oregon’s Josephine County is facing a persistent lack of law enforcement services. That’s according to a new report analyzing years-long funding gaps in the county.

The report, by a Portland-based policy research firm, looks at law enforcement in Josephine County since federal funding was phased out in 2012. Those cuts shrank sheriff’s office staff by 67 percent, as well as dispatch, jail and district attorney staff. Patrol coverage went from nearly 24/7 to just eight hours a day, five days a week.

In the years since, voters turned down a series of tax measures to pay for services. A 2017 levy returned some funds, and the state police filled some of the gap.

But County Commissioner Darin Fowler says voters need to ask themselves if this level of public safety is enough. 

"We are not going to be able to provide 24-hour coverage," he says." And we’ll still be behind, not only based on these stats but just on the perception... and I think it’s turned into a lot of unnecessary criminal activity." 

The report details trends possibly related to the reduced funding: the number of residents with concealed carry permits tripled between 2012 and 2016, and 246 medical emergencies were delayed last year because of a lack of law enforcement. 

The current tax levy is set to expire in 2022. The report's authors warn this puts Josephine County at risk of returning to similar funding levels as when the cuts began. 

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.