Should you decide to wander out of a bar in downtown Hood River at 2:30 a.m. and go to the bathroom in an area that is not designated as a restroom, say a wall, sidewalk or planter box, the Hood River Police have a $435 ticket with your name on it.
Responding to complaints from downtown businesses about disturbances on city streets after bars close downtown, the police department is adding a “catch all” to its downtown enforcement efforts.
The police have switched tactics this year. Previously they had been attempting to arrest and charge rowdies with disorderly conduct. However, that statute did not always apply to lesser offenses, such as public urination.
“Years ago we would arrest people on disorderly conduct…I wanted to get away from that; I didn’t see the need to arrest someone for it but they needed to be accountable for that,” Hood River Police Chief Neal Holste said.
The strategy was also expensive and time consuming for the police department, having to transport suspects to NORCOR.
For less belligerent offenses, the police will now be issuing citations for public indecency, a city code violation misdemeanor.
However, those who are more belligerent, are causing property damage or are too intoxicated to still be out on the street will still likely get a trip to NORCOR.
“It’s sort of a catch-all,” Holste said of the public indecency ordinance.
The public indecency section of the Hood River City code, section 9.20.10, states that “No person shall, while in, or in view of place, perform: An act of sexual intercourse; An act of exposing their sex organs, or the areola of the female mamma; An act of urination or defecation, except in toilets provided for that purpose.”
Holste said he doesn’t think there have that many more instances of disorderly conduct or indecency this year, but that it is simply being noticed more.
Holste said that from May to September of last year there were 16 reports filed in the department for disorderly conduct. From May to July 25 of this year there have been 15.
Holste’s ultimate goal through the public indecency citations, beyond forcing accountability, is to track where people are being over-served with alcohol.
He said that as police make citations for public indecency they will be asking where the perpetrator consumed their alcohol.
“My goal behind this is, we are going to talk to these people about where they were consuming their alcohol and track it back,” he said. “The goal behind is to make licensees accountable for their patrons.”
Holste added that police are also partnering with OLCC for possible follow-up on the state’s end, as well.
With more than 100 liquor licensees in the downtown area, Holste said it’s time for the issue to be addressed.
“We’ve just started to kick this out full force,” he said of the public indecency citations.
“Let’s start enforcing this and taking control of it.”