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Phoenix, Jacksonville make 'safest cities' list

Two Rogue Valley towns earned the distinction of being among the safest places in Oregon, based on a recent listing by the Oregon Home Security and Crime Prevention Center.

A clearinghouse for public safety information hosted by the for-profit Safewise.com, the list outlines the 30 safest towns based on FBI crime statistics.

Jacksonville was named No. 3, while Phoenix, tucked between Medford and Talent, capped off the list at No. 30.

Both police departments’ chiefs were appreciative of the listing but admitted they were apprehensive when first notified they made the cut.

Of more than 470 cities, the list was narrowed to 108 burbs with populations of 2,500 or more.

All told, the 30 safest cities ranged from Baker City, the No. 1 safest with only 62 reported crimes in the last year of collected data, to historic towns such as Umatilla (No. 10), Gervais (No. 17) and Lake Oswego (No. 12).

Phoenix, with just over 4,600 residents, earned mention of its community dinners, per the site report, and community events that include a summer jazz festival.

When contacted about the “top 30” list, Phoenix police Chief Derek Bowker said City Manager Steve Dahl only added to Bowker’s own skepticism by suspecting the list was an email spam.

“Yea, my city manager thought it was a hoax, too, until we checked the website,” Bowker said.

“It was good to be listed, and Phoenix is pretty low crime. Phoenix has never been a real hotbed of criminal activity, but we’ve worked very hard to keep it that way,” he said.

Bowker said he was proud of his officers but also acknowledged a close-knit and active community.

“We have a great, small community where a lot of people look out for each other in Phoenix, so the public is as much to thank as (the police) are for Phoenix being a safe place to live,” he said.

“We’re a small town, so we only have one, sometimes two, officers on duty. So by no means are we canvassing the city 24/7. A lot of the safe feeling has to do with neighbors being aware and calling us if something is off.”

Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe said a joint effort between police and residents was to thank for Jacksonville’s safe reputation, in addition to its off-the-beaten-path locale.

Towe, the “senior chief” in the state — with the longest tenure among chiefs for any one department — also credited a close-knit community.

“I’ve had a rare glimpse watching the town evolve. In the 20-some odd years I’ve been there, we’ve had one bank robbery and one homicide — and the homicide was a love triangle kind of thing, someone that was known to the victim,” Towe said.

“I’ve always felt like it’s a very safe community. If anything is out of place, we get a call, and our cops are very active. When you ask people how many police they think there are in Jacksonville, people usually will give you a number four times as many as there actually are.”

Towe added, “I think with the bigger towns, it’s harder to stay connected, and law enforcement, in general, has lost its face with communities over the years. We don’t have that problem. Today, for example, I’m the only guy on the road, so if a call comes in, I’m handling it.”

 To learn more about the list, see www.safewise.com/blog/30-safest-cities-oregon/

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.