SILETZ, Ore. (KOIN 6) — About eight miles from the Pacific Ocean sits the city of Siletz, with a population around 1200 — and no police force.
The residents of Siletz were given a survey and asked if they were willing to pay for police coverage. Despite an overwhelming majority of respondents who said yes, the city council didn’t share the results, did not put it on the ballot and opted to lose its police patrols.
Between January and March 2014, Toledo police — at one time contracted to provide coverage for Siletz — responded to 552 calls, a number that indicates dense crime to police.
“There’s no such thing as a small call in Siletz,” said Toledo PD Detective Tom Harrison. He added crime victims are often targeted for coming forward.
“(There is) a lot of retaliation on people who do report and follow through, which has come at a heavy price.”
Residents in this rural community feel isolated and abandoned. They said drugs and crime have taken over in the absence of law enforcement.
“We’re forgotten. We’re not even a town,” resident Casey Madrid told KOIN 6 News. “If you need help, to call somebody there’s not going to be anybody. There’s not going to be anybody at all.”
Resident Debra Eddings said, “We have no law enforcement and so now people are taking the law into their own hands, and it’s scary walking the streets.”
Sydnie Hicks said she doesn’t feel safe in her home. “I have to be careful what I say because I don’t want danger to come to me or my family.”
Contracted police work
For seven years, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians had been paying the full $350,000 contract for three Toledo police officers to patrol Siletz. Then it was reduced to two officers and the tribe asked the Siletz City Council to pay a portion after the tribe lost federal funding.
That’s when the city council sent out a survey asking residents if they were willing to pay for police service.
A total of 109 residents responded. Of those, 77 were willing to pay and 24 were not. Of 121 non-city citizens surveyed, 89 said yes, 19 said no.
“The results of the survey the council determined they would not put out to a vote for a levy or do any additional funding for the contract,” said Wes Chadwick, an attorney for the City of Siletz.
Chadwick confirmed the results of the survey showed people in favor of paying.
But Mayor John Robinson told KOIN 6 News, “People just weren’t willing to pay.” Asked about the survey results, he said, “I looked them over and we all agreed that was the case.”
Toledo PD Chief David Enyeart said, “I think it has something to do with finances. It would have cost them money to put it on the ballot.”
Since Siletz voters were not given the option, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was forced to take over calls for the service to the city – even though they did not get any more deputies.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Lt. Curtis Landers said they cover a total of 992 square miles with three deputies, leaving each deputy to cover about 330 square miles “if you average it out.”
“To get an extra six deputies would be ideal,” he said. “Right now, we don’t even have 24/7 coverage. There’s no secret there’s no deputies between 3 and 7 in the morning.”
Toledo’s chief Enyeart said Siletz “had several stabbings within a week,” an example of the dramatic increase in violent crime since March.
Response times to Siletz calls for help are also up.
“If we have to drive a half hour to a call, you can see how that adds up,” Landers said.
One 911 call obtained by KOIN 6 News detailed an assault victim who locked himself in the back room of an apartment to get away from his attacker. He called 911 repeatedly, called his mother to have her call 911 and grew more upset as time passed.
Toledo police officer Aaron Pitcher was only allowed to respond because it was considered a life-and-death situation. It took him 25 minutes.
In the past eight months, Toledo police have been called often to Siletz on those calls — “since March, 114 times,” Harrison said.
“For response to get out here takes forever,” resident Sydnie Hicks said. “It’s very frightening.”
“It’s scary,” said resident Casey Madrid. “It’s actually really scary.”
Mayor Robinson doesn’t disagree with the statement that some people are literally afraid for their lives.
“What can I do?” he said.
Robinson said the city council now sees they need police patrolling the city. They will try to have a special election in May 2015 with a tax levy on the ballot.