Tuesday, February 20, 2007

ORCOBA Alert: Collins Beach

From Don, ORCOBA and Portland area NACAR

I received word this past week that as part of an overall budget-reduction effort, the Office of the Oregon State Police is considering the elimination of the seasonal officer position assigned to Sauvie Island. This assignment, currently staffed by Trooper Randy Horner, has been vital to the security and safety on the island during the summer months, since as we all know, law enforcement out there is spread mighty thin out there as it is. And with Collins Beach being at the very end of the road onto the island, having such sparse police coverage become even more limited has a larger potential impact at our beach more than at other places. While most of us recognize Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Weaver as a familiar, friendly face out there, he (and all of us as well) relies on the assistance he gets from the State Police in the form of patrol officers to maintain security and handle reports and requests for police assistance. I spoke with Larry a couple of days ago and he confirmed the proposed staffing cut.

Law enforcement authorities on the island have come to recognize ORCOBA’s yellow-flaggers and other members as a resource on the beach, and they consider us as a link in the chain when it comes to addressing issues and problems. They value our existence and support our goals and objectives, and I feel we should return the consideration whenever possible, and this is a prime opportunity. Ultimately, any public safety agency has to answer to one higher authority – the citizens. The key is making that voice loud enough to be heard, and taken notice of. We, as that higher authority, have that opportunity to be the squeaky wheel right now. To everyone who enjoys Collins Beach as one of our finest nude public-lands recreation resources, my suggestion would be to take a few moments to write a letter as a citizen, taxpayer, voter, and/or frequent visitor to Sauvie Island, and express your concerns over the proposed staffing cut. Points to emphasize in your letter could include:

  • General concerns over the impact on public safety and security that the staffing cut would have (including delayed responses to calls for help).
  • Increased work load that would result for the remaining officers on the island, not to mention the loss of critical back-up assistance the remaining officers need during major incidents such as reports of violent activity. Not only would officers be less capable of handling some calls efficiently, their own safety would be at stake and jeopardized without this back-up.
  • The mere presence of law enforcement authority figures on the island is a crime deterrent. Reducing this presence, in any setting, often encourages acts of illegal behavior, particularly in geographically isolated areas.

  • Many visitors choose Sauvie Island as their recreation destination in part because of the reputation for safety that the island’s beaches, such as Collins, enjoys; the proposed staffing cut would have a negative impact on this reputation and serve to drive potential visitors (i.e., parking permit-purchasing, taxpaying Oregon residents and dollar-spending out-of-staters) away.

You need not be an Oregon resident to make your concerns known and be taken seriously; anyone, and everyone, has a right to speak and be heard, and I encourage everyone to do so. Washingtonians, in particular, translate into valuable sources of revenue every time they cross into Oregon and spend money on parking permits, gas, food, products, etc. I could go on for hours, but you all know where I’m going with this. Letters needn’t be lengthy, either; in fact, short and concise usually has more impact. The important thing is to be tactful, non-confrontational and appreciative of the agency’s willingness to take citizen input into consideration. And in this case, regular “snail mail” letters via the Postal Service will be more appropriate and effective than emails.

Letters should be addressed to:

Oregon State Police - General Headquarters
ATTN: Supt. Tom McLain
4th Floor, 255 Capital St NE
Salem, Oregon 97310

Thanks in advance to everyone who steps up to the plate on this one.

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