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MailTribune.com
  • Most banned scofflaws leave Ashland, cops say

  • Nine people have been banned from downtown Ashland in the wake of a new law meant to curb repeat illegal behavior there.
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  • Nine people have been banned from downtown Ashland in the wake of a new law meant to curb repeat illegal behavior there.
    Of those nine, seven have left the area, according to the Ashland Police Department.
    The downtown enhanced law-enforcement zone was created in August 2012 after the City Council adopted a three-strikes-you're-out policy toward repeat downtown offenders.
    People who commit three offenses — such as drinking in public, public urination, assault and harassment — within a six-month period can be banned from the downtown for three months.
    Banned people who return to the downtown can be arrested and taken to the Jackson County Jail in Medford.
    Between August 2012 and the beginning of this month, nine people qualified to be excluded from the downtown, according to APD.
    Five left town before police could serve notices to them that they had qualified, police Chief Terry Holderness said.
    "We had people causing problems on a daily basis who just left," he said.
    Of the four who were served notices, two left the area, he said. One of the remaining two has significant mental health issues and the other has an alcohol addiction, Holderness said.
    Each of the two has been arrested in the downtown six times since receiving notice about being banned, Holderness said.
    However, police used to have to deal with them several times a day, Holderness said.
    The nine people who were banned from the downtown are Peter Brian Abrahams, Jeffrey Karol Bonczyk, Darla Bruce, Rachel Hahn, Robert Houle, Richard Meier, Jeremiah Neill, Rane Rowlett and Matthew Smith, according to information obtained by the Daily Tidings after a public records request.
    Together, the nine have amassed citations for numerous offenses, including third-degree 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, according to public records.
    Several have long histories of problem behavior in Ashland.
    Abrahams, Bonczyk, Hahn and Neill were cited in 2011, while Bonczyk, Hahn and Rowlett were cited in 2010, according to public records.
    Abrahams was cited 15 times in 2011, and Bonczyk was cited a total of 21 times in 2010 and 2011, public records show.
    When a banned person is found in Ashland's downtown and arrested, police take him to jail in Medford.
    However, because of space limitations there, the offender is processed at the jail for a few hours and then released back out on the streets in Medford, Holderness said.
    Offenders then have to make their way back to Ashland if they want to return, he said.
    "We're saying, 'If you're doing this too many times, we'll at least inconvenience you,' " Holderness said.
    Holderness said it would be useful if Ashland would pay the county for designated jail space where serious, persistent Ashland offenders could be kept and not released quickly.
    "We've had people, not necessarily downtown, continue to do thefts again and again and never experience jail time," Holderness said. "I would love for them to have consequences."
    He said there are people in the community who know they can commit crimes repeatedly without being jailed as long as they are careful about what crimes they commit.
    Holderness said Ashland will need one to two years' worth of statistics to see whether the downtown enhanced enforcement zone is reducing problem behavior there.
    APD received 214 calls about downtown disorder in the eight months after the zone was created, a slight downturn from the 227 calls received during the same eight-month period before the zone's creation, Holderness said.
    If the nine people hadn't been banned from the downtown, the number of calls would have been almost certainly higher than 214 because of the numerous problems they were causing, he said.
    Although the dip from 227 calls to 214 calls is statistically small, it reverses an upward trend that saw calls about downtown disorder spike more than 40 percent from 2010 to 2012, Holderness said.
    The downtown enhanced law-enforcement zone — which also has been called an exclusion zone — generated controversy and protests when it was under consideration and then adopted in 2012.
    Opponents of the zone said it targets homeless people and doesn't address underlying problems such as mental illness and addiction.
    Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.
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