Central Park Crackdown

Police Create TAP-5 to Address Crime, Public Health Concerns

By Bethany Carlson

A Tactical Action Plan released by the Corvallis Police Department will address livability issues and criminal behavior in Corvallis’ Central Park. Issues cited in the plan as reasons for the crackdown include human waste, drug paraphernalia such as hypodermic needles, criminal mischief, unleashed dogs, smoking, and concerns cited by the nearby First Presbyterian Church for children enrolled in their daycare.

Lt. Cord Wood, asked about similarities to last year’s TAP-9 downtown enforcement, said that last year the problems were spread across a broader area, while “So far issues seem localized to the park” this year.  Asked if he perceives the cold-weather homeless shelter as being related to the last two years’ issues, Wood replied “I don’t know that we can make a direct correlation  between the homeless shelter and the behavior we’re seeing now.” He added that problems like this do tend to be cyclical.

Between October 1st and January 1st this year, CPD responded to 86 calls for service in the Central Park area. Empty alcohol bottles, hypodermic needles, bedding and trash are found on a regular basis by Corvallis Parks and Recreation, according to the action plan. Of particular concern is the presence of drug paraphernalia near the playground on the south edge of the park.

The plan is slated to run Feb. 1–May 1, but enforcement may be extended or shortened in response to its success. Police presence will be increased in the Central Park area, and will include bicycle patrol officers, foot patrols, and possibly plain clothes officers. TAP-5 aims to educate first time offenders about state and city laws, use progressive levels of enforcement, and document the number of TAP-5-related contacts made. Additionally, police will provide Corvallis Housing First (formerly the Corvallis Homeless Shelter Coalition) with the action plan, and encourage CHF to educate their clients about the plan.

Several local groups gave input and will partner with CPD to support the plan. CPD held meetings last month with the Downtown Corvallis Association, the Central Park Neighborhood Association, First Presbyterian and First Christian churches, the Corvallis Public Library, and Corvallis Housing First, and  these organizations are listed in the plan as community partners. The plan states that CPD will send weekly updates with TAP statistics to the DCA, Corvallis Housing First, the Central Park Neighborhood Association, and the Gazette-Times, and will meet with community groups every thirty days to review the effectiveness of the plan.

Last year’s TAP-9 brought claims from some homeless people that they were targeted by police not for criminal behavior, but merely for being in the park. Lt. Wood responds, “They shouldn’t [feel targeted]. If they’re not engaging in criminal behavior, they shouldn’t have issues. That’s what we’re trying to address.” He adds that people might also expect to be contacted by police if they are with other people who are engaging in criminal activity.