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Port patrols likely by this fall

Brookings city officials are merely awaiting a signature before they proceed with an agreement with the Port of Brookings Harbor to provide police patrols of port-owned property along Lower Harbor Road.

Port board officials requested assistance from Brookings in June; the city staff then determined it would cost the port $66,000 a year to protect port-owned property along Lower Harbor Road.

Pending a signature from the port district board, that service will begin Sept. 1 and would include patrolling the area about 27 hours a week, based on the number of emergency calls that area receives.

In the meantime, city staff is researching, per the port’s request, the possibility that those law enforcement services be extended to the entire port district.

“We certainly can’t come up with that plan in a short timeline,” said City Manager Gary Milliman. “Council did authorize staff to work with the port to come up with a plan, but there are a lot of things to consider.”

Some of those include the possibility of annexation of the Harbor area into the city of Brookings, as police service would serve some of that community. Another issue is whether the port would have to consider a tax increase to pay to extend that service to the entire district.

The port district runs from the California border north to Pistol River and east to the Josephine County line; it is currently served by the Sheriff’s Office except in the city of Brookings, which has its own police force.

The Sheriff’s Office, however, is short-staffed, with four patrol deputies available to cover the county’s 1,600 square miles — leaving gaps during any given day in which an emergency response might be needed. Brookings police officers will only respond in life-or-death situations or if an officer is available to assist.

“Some areas are urbanized, not unlike the city,” Milliman said. “There may be a level of service provided to the more urbanized area south of the bridge and a different level in the less populated areas.”

Port board officials requested assistance from Brookings in June; the city staff then determined it would cost the port $66,000 a year to protect port-owned property along Lower Harbor Road.

Pending a signature from the port district board, that service will begin Sept. 1.

City officials are uneasy about taking on that job for the long term.

“Staff is concerned about any arrangement whereby the city would be providing its highest-value and highest-cost service to non-residents for an extended period,” Milliman wrote in a report to the council. “(They would) miss the added tax value of development on lands that enjoy police services.”

Staffing at the city level would not be compromised, Milliman noted.

“The city added a police officer two years ago to assure there would be at least two officers on duty at all times,” he said. “Due to turnover, retirements and training periods, this higher level of service has only recently been implemented. In some cases, there are now two officers and a sergeant on a shift, and more officers during other periods.”

Another benefit of providing the service to the port district — even just along the city’s southern boundary at the Chetco River — is that intensifying law enforcement activity in one area generally pushes the criminal element to areas where the level of law enforcement presence is less, Milliman said. 

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