BEND, Ore. - Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel released a report Wednesday that documents the results of a recent survey that gauged county residents’ views on public safety.
An advisory group spent about a year going through crime data to figure out the big drivers of crime. Drug crimes were rated No. 1,and most of the public agreed in the survey.
"I think Deschutes County is safe, because it is safe," Hummel said. "But I need to know how the public feels about that, and we have seen some concerns."
The survey was conducted by Dr. Kris Hennings of Portland State University and was commissioned by Hummel and the members of the DeschutesSafe community advisory group he convened in 2015.
The survey shows people believe illegal drugs, traffic safety, homelessness and mental illness, alcohol, and property crime are their top concerns as threats to public safety.
Hummel said the results showed the county is both tough and fair on crime.
"What we saw in this survey is, if you're a drug dealer and you're doing major drug dealing, we will throw the hammer at you," Hummel said. "But if you're a person suffering from an addiction, let's get you the help you need."
Driving under the influence is believed to be a major public safety issue by respondents, but there was also a high degree of consensus that the issues surrounding traffic safety also relate to drivers driving too fast, being distracted behind the wheel (phone use), and driving too aggressively.
The survey also reported people felt public safety, from the fall of 2015 to 2016, either became less safe or stayed the same. Hummel said he was not surprised residents are concerned about traffic safety.
"The day to day things that impact the people the most are aggressive driving, improper lane changes, speeding, and drunk driving," Hummel said. "We need to continue the focus on that, because those are the quality of life crimes that people have to grapple with every day."
The county's voter registration database was used to form a list of 10,000 randomly selected homes in the county, but that survey was opened up to the entire county to increase participation. In the end, a total of 941 people participated in the survey.
Hummel said the survey was designed to allow people to report their level of safety in a specific town. He said it can also be about perspective, and he tried to gauge people's impression about their safety, rather than the actual crime numbers.
Overall, the survey reported most people felt like Deschutes County is a safe place to live.
Full survey results are contained in the survey report.
“Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts on public safety in our community,” Hummel said. “The survey results helped guide me in the development of a new program to improve how we handle the prosecution of drug crimes. Stay tuned for the details.”