Be proactive not reactive. That's the approach commissioners are taking when it comes to protecting people and property at the Port of Brookings Harbor.
The county's fiscal crises has left the port - and most of the county - with little to no law enforcement during overnight hours, giving would-be thieves, vandals, drug dealers and transients free reign at the port.
Commissioner Jim Relaford called it "the Wild, Wild West at night."
We wouldn't go that far, but reports from shop owners, commercial fishermen and RV park managers show that crime activity is getting worse - quickly.
The port has reacted by installing gates and fences in some areas, and its own employees often investigate suspicious circumstances - employees who don't have any police training or weapons.
A proactive plan, one that prevents crimes from happening, is the best option. The port is exploring the idea of forming it's own police force, allowed by state law, and contracting with an existing police agency such as the Brookings Police Department for patrol services.
We strongly encourage the port to include the sheriff in such talks, not simply as a courtesy but because much of the port district is currently under his jurisdiction and it will also broadening the possibilities.
This is important because, while the formation of a port police force sounds good, it is rife with complications that must be considered before any decisions are made.
The port district is large, stretching from the Oregon border to Pistol River, and includes the City of Brookings and unincorporated areas of the county. Will a port police force patrol just the immediately port area or the entire district? Will district tax dollars pay for the service or will it be covered by revenue from other port sources?
Will sheriff's deputies still respond to the port area? Do traffic tickets and citations go to city or state courts?
As you can see, it gets complicated quickly.
Being proactive is important but so is being inclusive. Doing both will ensure that if anything is done, it will be done quickly and in a spirit of cooperation.