Nine people banned from downtown Ashland under three-strikes exclusion zone policy

By The Associated Press, in The Oregonian, May 21, 2013

Homeless person readingNine people have been affected by a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy that prohibits repeat troublemakers from venturing into downtown Ashland.

The City Council created the exclusion zone in August. People who commit three offenses within a six-month period can be banned from the downtown for three months. Opponents of the zone say it targets homeless people and doesn’t address underlying problems such as mental illness and addiction.

The Ashland Daily Tidings made a public records request to obtain the names of people who have been banned.

The nine have amassed citations for offenses such as theft, urinating in public, trespassing, disorderly conduct, having an open container of alcohol in public, drinking alcohol in public, furnishing alcohol to a minor and failing to appear in court, the newspaper reported.

For the most part, the people banned from downtown have stayed away.

Chief Terry Holderness of the Ashland Police Department said five of the nine left town before police could notify them that they qualified for exclusion.

“We had people causing problems on a daily basis who just left,” he said.

Two of the four served with notices left the area, Holderness said.

One of the remaining two is an alcoholic and the other has mental health problems. Each has been arrested multiple times downtown since receiving exclusion notices, Holderness said.

Those who violate the ban are taken to the Jackson County Jail in Medford where they are processed for a few hours before being released back out on the streets because of space limitations.

Offenders who want to return to Ashland must their own transportation back.

“We’re saying, ‘If you’re doing this too many times, we’ll at least inconvenience you,'” Holderness said.

More time is needed to determine whether the exclusion zone is cutting down on bad behavior, he said.

The department has received 214 calls about downtown disorder in the eight months since the zone was created, a slight decline from the 227 calls received during the same eight-month period before its creation.

Though the drop is small, it reverses an upward trend, Holderness said. And, he added, had the repeat scofflaws not been banned from the downtown, the number would certainly have been higher than 214.