On Wednesday night, four Bend City Councilors and the Mayor voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would expand the civil exclusion zone to cover the downtown area in hopes of reducing crime and increasing both livability and business activity.
Civil exclusion zones are areas designated to protect the public from those whose illegal conduct poses a threat to safety and welfare. The original civil exclusion zone was adopted by city council in 2010. This zone included Drake Park and a small percentage of the downtown area. The expansion of the zone would encompass additional areas of downtown.
“The downtown area has seen an increase in the number of habitual offenders, who violate city ordinance and state laws, effecting the safety of those visiting, working or residing in the downtown area,” the City of Bend issue summary states.
If violent offenders are removed from the downtown area, staff from the city of Bend believe there’s the potential for an increase in shopper and dinners.
Gary Firestone, assistant City attorney, gave councilors an overview of the changes in the ordinance during the city council meeting. This was the second time a first reading of the ordinance occurred due to the number of amendments that were made to the ordinance, he said. He emphasized the constitutional protections provided in the ordinance as well as due process.
Firestone said loitering and panhandling are not grounds for exclusion. Only certain crimes including assault, strangulation and sexual offenses may result in a notice of exclusion.
Jim Porter, Chief of Police for the Bend Police Department, also attended the meeting to answer councilor’s questions and give an overview of how notices will be issued.
Councilors Barb Campbell and Nathan Boddie were opposed to the expansion of the civil exclusion zone.
“I think we’re trying to clean up downtown so it’s cuter for our tourists, and that’s my concern,” Campbell said.
Councilor Casey Roats said the expansion of the zone is a step towards building a smarter city.
“Everyone is welcome to downtown Bend, but we are saying that we are going to have some level of decorum we expect out of the people who come to share this wonderful space with us,” Roats said.
Bend Chamber CEO and President Tim Casey said the new zoning will give tourists and locals alike the confidence that downtown Bend remains family friendly, which will encourage commerce in the area.
“The exclusionary zone has been a great resource to ensure the parks remain safe for members of the community,” he said. “Using the same tool in downtown will hopefully allow people a greater sense of comfort while they are enjoying the downtown core.”