COOS BAY — Coos Bay crime is on a downward trend.
Since 2018, violent crime has reduced by 33 percent and property crime by 35 percent, according to Coos Bay Police Department’s Deputy Chief Chris Chapanar when he looked at raw data from the past three years.
The dip in crime trailed behind high crime statistics from 2017, often landing Coos Bay in online polls as one of Oregon’s most dangerous cities. However, that is no longer the case.
“If we remember what happened in our area in 2017, that’s unfortunately when the (Coos County Jail) took a significant financial impact and had to reduce their number of available beds to 49,” Chapanar said. “So we were arresting for crimes but (the jail) wasn’t able to house them for any period of time. They were released.”
Back during this shortage of jail beds, there was an instance where someone stole a car four different times in a 24-hour period. Chapanar said once the jail was able to open back up to almost 100 beds, crime started to decline.
“The criminal justice system is a three-legged stool,” he explained. “If one of those legs is missing, it really wobbles and there’s a ripple effect all the way across. Back then the jail suffered from financial burdens and it rippled through the entire justice system. There was a backlog at the (District Attorney’s) office because there were people getting arrested multiple times in short periods because they weren’t being housed. In 2017, the DA’s office was suffering, law enforcement was suffering, and the jail was suffering.”
Since the jail opened up more bed space, Coos Bay started to see a decline in violent crime and property crime.
“If we make an arrest and take someone to jail, they are generally held for longer periods of time and the message gets out to offenders that there is a consequence to their actions,” Chapanar said. “Another factor is when the jail was down and we were constantly arresting people for repeat offences, people’s matrix goes up on their crimes. When they are finally sentenced on a fourth or fifth property crime, their sentence is higher because their matrix is higher.”
In 2017, one of the biggest contributing factors in property crime were car thefts, which have since plummeted. In 2017 there were 218 car thefts reported. In 2019, there were 35.
“One of the big things we saw in 2017 were 29 sex offenses reported,” Chapanar said, then pointed to the 2019 statistics that showed only 11 reported.
For simple assaults like harassment, Coos Bay saw 223 in 2017 but saw it drop to 181 in 2019.
“Altogether, in 2017 for person crimes reported we had 377 and in 2018 we had 319 and in 2019 we had 253,” he said. “Between those years, it reduced 33 percent.”
For property crimes in 2017, there were 1,894 reported. In 2018, there were 1,224 reported. In 2019, there were 1,229 reported.
“So that’s a .004 percent increase, but overall a 35 percent decrease in those years,” Chapanar said. “The statistics showing Coos Bay as one of the most dangerous cities are looking at the 2017 numbers, not the ones today.”
As for locations that produce high call volumes for the CBPD, Walmart generates 900 to 1,100 calls a year for service.
“For Walmart, it’s hard to single out one corporation that also has a lot of benefits for our area,” Chapanar said. “Walmart has provided funding for K-9 programs in the past. They’re a good partner. Because of the size of business they operate, they contribute quite a few numbers.”
However, some of those crime statistics involving Walmart’s location come from self-initiated activity when someone is wanted or something happens in the parking lot. In 2018, CBPD responded to Walmart-related calls 943 times. In 2019, the department responded to 1,079 calls.
Likewise, another high call producer is the Nancy Devereux Center, though Chapanar made it clear he reported the numbers not in a negative light on the organization but at the request of The World.
“When you look at calls for services, we do unfortunately respond more frequently to them,” he said.
In 2018, CBPD responded to the Devereux Center 87 times and in 2019 a total of 196 times.
“We’d have to look at each call to see if we were searching for someone or checked the area, self-initiated stuff that’s attached to the location rather than there being a problem at the Devereux,” he explained.
Chapanar emphasized how crime numbers decrease when there is a “balance” in the criminal justice system.
“I think this (reduction) is a collaborative effort when all facets of the criminal justice system are working,” he said. “We’re excited to see our numbers drop… We’re going to continue to reduce these rates. We’ve made progress, but there is still room for improvement.”