Earlier this month, an audio recording surfaced of a 911 call coming from Josephine County, Oregon, that illustrates just how bad a situation can get when an area doesn’t have an adequate law enforcement agency and/or its citizens are ill equipped to protect themselves.
In the recording that was published by Oregon Public Broadcasting and occurred in August 2012, a woman asks an emergency services dispatcher for help, explaining that her ex-boyfriend — one who just weeks before beat her so badly that she needed medical attention — was trying to break into her house. The dispatcher told the desperate woman the only thing she could: to hide, take another beating and then ask her attacker to leave, or to call back during business hours because there were no officers in the area to respond.
Under normal circumstances a community would be outraged because of the dispatcher’s callous instructions, but everything she said was true. Since the Josephine County Sheriff’s Department was grossly understaffed and underfunded, it could only afford to operate 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. And the incident occurred about 5 o’clock Saturday morning. Shortly after the woman hung up the phone, her ex-boyfriend pried open the door to the house, choked her and then raped her.
While this is an extreme example of what could happen, Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said, “There isn’t a day go by that we don’t have another victim.”
Although the recording is dated Aug. 18, 2012, it has earned fresh attention since it surfaced during campaigning for a May 21 special election regarding raising property taxes from 59 cents to $1.48 per $1,000 of property value in Josephine and Curry counties. The tax levy would have raised funds for law enforcement and public safety, however, the community ultimately voted against the tax increase, according to the Associated Press.
The cut in the public safety budget in Josephine County, and two others in Oregon, was the result of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expiring last year. The act ensured that counties with large national forests — land that can’t be taxed — receive money from the federal government to help fund public safety, among other things.
Although voters rejected the proposal to increase property taxes (twice already), lawmakers are still worried that the area will descend into lawlessness, reported The Oregonian. In an effort to secure the funds they need to support public safety in its current state, lawmakers may allow the state to impose a local income tax, or once again propose an increase in property tax and hold a vote.
But all of this talk seems pretty small in comparison to the palpable terror in that recording.