Greenway safer than it appears

Jackson County's longtime Greenway Coordinator Karen Smith suggested the best solution to concerns about safety on the path that winds along Bear Creek from Ashland to Central Point: Use it.

"The more people use it the safer it is, the less hospitable it is for people who want to live in the brush," Smith told the Mail Tribune in a story in Wednesday's paper.

We couldn't agree more.

While the number of police calls along the Greenway has soared this year, that's largely because officers now patrol year-round on foot and bicycle, generating many of the calls themselves. And many of those calls are not for felony assaults or other life-threatening crimes, but for the kinds of infractions associated with homeless encampments — trespassing, prohibited camping, public intoxication.

That's not to say that those crimes are acceptable or should be ignored. But there is no epidemic of attacks on law-abiding citizens using the Greenway.

The idea that the Greenway is not a safe place appears to be more perception than reality.

As Medford Deputy Police Chief Tim George points out, other parts of town have higher crime rates. And he correctly cautions the public to use some common sense and not jog on the Greenway in the middle of the night, or on any street in Medford for that matter.

During daylight hours, runners, bicyclists and families with children are a common sight on the bike path through Medford. That is as it should be.

The occasional sight of a homeless person along the creek may make some residents nervous, but it's common to encounter the same people on downtown streets or outside a grocery store. Serious crimes are rare: The Sheriff's Department investigated four assaults in all of 2006, none this year.

Medford police and county sheriff's deputies do the best they can with a difficult situation, but the problem of homelessness is not easily solved. If every homeless camp was eliminated from the Greenway, the occupants would simply move somewhere else in the community.

Police are making an extra effort to discourage camping on the Greenway, but Smith's suggestion will help, too. If more people use the Greenway for its intended purposes, law-abiding users will feel more comfortable there, and homeless campers will feel less comfortable.

Registered voters in Phoenix and Ashland will begin receiving ballots for the Sept. 18 special election in their mailboxes tomorrow. We urge every registered voter to participate.

The Phoenix measure, 15-78, is a citizen referendum asking voters to repeal a $20-a-month surcharge on city water bills to pay for police, fire protection and public works.

In Ashland, Measure 15-79 asks voters to approve a local option property tax levy to provide funding for the Ashland Library. State law requires that 50 percent of registered voters cast ballots and a majority vote yes to pass the measure.

The Elections Department drop box on West Main Street in Medford will open Saturday. Drop boxes at Phoenix City Hall (open during business hours) and behind the Ashland Library (24 hours) will open Sept. 10.

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