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Wilsonville Police chief addresses the results of annual report and says he would like to see staffing beefed up in certain areas

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Wilsonville Police Chief Robert Wurpes (right) talks to a Rotary Club of Wilsonville member after a rotary meeting in April.

According to a recent Wilsonville Police Department report, crashes, suicide attempts and petty thefts increased in Wilsonville in 2018.

On the traffic front, the police department received 393 calls about crashes in 2018 versus 334 in 2017. Some of the top crash sites included the intersection of Wilsonville Road and Boones Ferry Road and the connection of Wilsonville Road and the I-5 Northbound Freeway.

Wilsonville Police Chief Robert Wurpes said identifying a definitive cause of any of the results would require an extensive study. Wurpes also noted that the City hired a traffic enforcement officer and a motorcyclist to better respond to traffic-related incidents in recent years. It also implemented a tool on the City's website last year where residents can report traffic issues. In turn, the Wilsonville police, engineering and public works department work together to determine the cause of a given incident.

"I want to be responsive to complaints because they are the folks seeing issues that we might not see," Wurpes said.

Mental health-related issues also spiked in 2018. The police department responded to 125 suicide attempts last year compared to 98 in 2017. There was also significant increase in other mental health-related calls. Wurpes said the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, which the City of Wilsonville contracts with for police services, has clinical behavioral specialists that respond to such incidents.

"Sometimes they (the behavioral specialists) know the mental health history of some folks. They may say, 'We know there's a police call for this. We know that guy. We're actually comfortable. We'll take it.' And they will go deal with that person," Wurpes said. "Also if this person needs to go to a hospital, they can help coordinate that. They can help pave the way to make sure they can go to an appropriate facility."

Petty crime increased markedly from 2017 to 2018 — 504 to 639 — but Wurpes attributed much of that to a crime spree perpetrated by Skylar and Jeff Tweedle. Last November, the police found items from 257 identified individuals and 819 items from unknown people stolen by the Tweedles. Wurpes was proud of the work the police force did to catch the Tweedles, who were sentenced to five years in prison.

"I'm happy with our response," he said. "Our model is problem-oriented policing. If there's a problem, let's throw some resources at it and see if we can fix it."

As theft prevention measures, Wurpes advised residents to lock their house and car and get to know their neighbors.

On the other hand, reports of criminal mischief, runaway juveniles, drug complaints and assaults declined in 2018.

Also, in response to criminal mischief complaints from residents who live along Memorial Park and a shooting that took place there last fall, Wurpes said the police force will increase patrols at the park as the summer months draw closer. He said patrol frequency wouldn't be precisely designated.

"We understand that there was a lot of low-level petty crime going on there and it just wasn't good for the park or the community, so we decided when the weather really turns better we would like to get out there more and not just drive through the parking lot but (assign) bicycle patrol, foot patrol and a little bit of extra presence just to set the tone early on, and just keep petty crime down," he said.

As for staffing, if Wurpes had his druthers, he would invest in a second detective and a second school resource officer.

"To me right now, our detective has a very high case load when I compare it to other places," he said. "Comparative analysis shows that almost every city similar to ours has more detectives."

And Wurpes said an additional student resource officer would allow the officers to spend more time at elementary and middle schools instead of mostly at the high schools and to interact with students in classrooms.

"More time to interact with primary school children and middle schoolers so we have more of that interaction early on so we aren't these big, bad, scary dudes later," Wurpes said. "We could talk about safety, pedestrian safety, bike safety, things that are important to kids. I think that could have a really beneficial impact to the community."

Wilsonville City Council ultimately decides whether to beef up staffing levels.

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