With a population estimated between 5,000-5,500, Crooked River Ranch — Oregon's largest homeowners' association — is considering its options for stepping up law enforcement.
After a Feb. 28 town hall meeting on the topic of additional patrols by deputies of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the CRR Club and Maintenance Association Board of Directors — the homeowners' association that governs the Ranch — may move forward with a ballot measure to form a CRR Enhanced Law Enforcement District.
Jim Dille, board treasurer for the Ranch homeowners' association, is spearheading the effort to place a measure on the November ballot asking Ranch residents if they would like to form a county service district to fund two more officers.
"There are two avenues to put it on the ballot for the public to vote on — create a petition drive or directly ask the county commissioners to do it," said Dille, who lives in Clackamas, but has a second home at the Ranch.
At the association's next meeting, Monday, March 20, Dille intends to introduce a resolution asking the County Commission to put such a measure on the November ballot. The public meeting will be held at 6 p.m., in the Juniper Room, next to the administration office.
"I've been on the board for four and a half years, and on more than one occasion, we've been approached by people who want more patrols — general police presence," he said. "We don't have a lot of crime, but I don't think it's going to get better before it gets worse."
Currently, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, which is in charge of law enforcement at the Ranch, has three deputies who live outside the county, but begin their shifts at the Ranch, according to Sheriff Jim Adkins.
"What I have are patrol deputies who live in Redmond, Bend and La Pine and travel by their personal vehicle to Crooked River Ranch and pick up their patrol car and start their shift at the Crooked River Ranch Fire Hall. I also, on Thursdays and Fridays, have the Camp Sherman resident deputy drive over when he's not on a call."
Although the majority of the calls to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office are from the northern part of the county — Madras, Culver and Metolius — Adkins said that he is open to formation of a taxing district to support another deputy or two at the Ranch.
"The Ranch board approached me and asked me what I thought about creating a taxing district out there and I told them if the Ranch citizens want me to have another deputy out there, I'm 100 percent in support of that," said Adkins. "If they don't want another one out there, I'm 100 percent in support of that, as well."
Over the past several years, Ranch leaders have considered other ways to improve law enforcement. In December 2012, the board asked John Stevens, a private investigator who lives at the Ranch, to coordinate its Neighborhood Watch program and "to serve as an advisor to the Board of Directors and our staff on security issues on the Ranch."
Stevens researched volunteer policing, loss prevention and security programs for the board and presented a low-cost citizen volunteer policing plan, based on a program used by the Gresham Police Department, back in 2014.
"These programs could have operated individually or collective pending on how it developed, as well as mitigate potential Ranch-related losses," he wrote in an email.
Under the Gresham program, managed by the chief of police and coordinated by a police department employee, trained citizen volunteers would act "as an enhanced Neighborhood Watch (observing and reporting) for the city."
"We presented to the board a proposal that would cost them nothing," said Stevens. "It would save the association money. Rather than look at it, they said no, we want policemen out here. Police translate into money. We can't afford higher taxes, more dues."
County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen said that if the Ranch voted to form a special law enforcement district, the levy amount for two full-time officers would be about $1 per $1,000 valuation for property taxes.
A sample timeline drawn up by the county would have the prospective petition with the boundary description submitted by May 8, in order to be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Stevens believes that Ranch officials "are leading membership to believe there's no other alternative."
On the contrary, he said, there are currently Ranch residents like him, with security backgrounds, who are ready to volunteer their services. "The same agency that licenses police officers licenses me," he said.
The idea of community patrols is part of what generated the homeowner association's discussions, said Dille, who recalls a meeting in 2014 when the proposal was on their agenda.
"The board had a chance to think about it," he said. "It never even got a motion."
Adkins is also opposed to a community volunteer program. "I'm not willing to take on any liability for a citizens' patrol," he said. "I'm not willing to support that at all."
When the association board asked him, he told them he was not in favor of the proposal. "I feel that I provide a better service when I have my trained deputies and reserve deputies providing law enforcement services."
In the late 1990s, Adkins said, there were five or six security guards at the Ranch that had been deputized by the former sheriff, Jack Jones. One of those guards attempted to stop a vehicle, and "put bullet holes in a car because she wouldn't stop."
"Jack immediately went out and pulled all his commission cards," he said.
"A lot of people, when I talk to them, believe that law enforcement is adequate out there," said Adkins. "Some of them want enhanced patrols. It will be up to the citizens out there, and I want to support them. If you want to tax yourselves, I will provide a service, but I'm not going to push this."