Two days after the second suspected homicide in a little more than a year in Hermiston, the City Council heard a report on the rising crime rate in the city from mayoral candidate John Kirwan and an update from acting Police Chief Jason Edmiston.

Edmiston, who last week attended a management institute courtesy of the National Center for Rural Law Enforcement, said simply, “The current system is not working.”

Edmiston pointed to a county jail that is nowhere near its capacity because of funding issues, a parole-probation system that has its “hands tied” and chronic offenders that take advantage of the system.

The suspect arrested in Saturday morning’s shooting in Hermiston, Jesus Carrillo Jr., has arrests going back to at least 2006, including several felonies. He served one year in prison and is currently on probation.

“You have this revolving door of chronic offenders out on the street,” Edmiston said. “The system needs help.”

City Manager Ed Brookshier noted that at one time, the city did have a full-time bed in the Umatilla County Jail for Hermiston arrestees. That, however, was cut as a budgetary matter.

Kirwan presented data to the council that suggested that the crime rate is rising in Hermiston. He showed 2009 statistics that showed that the property crime rate in Hermiston was nearly 40 percent higher than the national average and the violent crime rate in the city was more than 26 percent higher than the Oregon average.

He also said those numbers are projected to increase.

Edmiston did say, “We know crime is up,” but he said statistics won’t be complete until the end of the year.

Edmiston also said HPD is taking steps to confront the issue. The department will assign a patrol officer as a full-time property detective beginning Dec. 1, and he is currently discussion options with District Attorney Dan Primus to address the issue of chronic offenders.

“It’s going to take all of us to work together on this,” Edmiston said. “We’ve got work to do.”

Also Monday night, the council:

• Heard a request from Anne Emmons that the council again consider working with neighborhood associations. Emmons was president of the North Port Neighborhood Association, a group that was active about 15 years ago in Hermiston, but was later effectively discouraged from participating by the council at the time.

Emmons asked that the council “study and embrace neighborhood associations.”

“It’s upsetting to see the the city embroiled in crisis,” she said. “We want to be able to provide some input into Hermiston.”

Emmons then asked that a written response be presented by the council at its next meeting.

• Approved the purchase of 1.5 acres on Hermiston Butte for $44,130. The parcel was the last privately owned parcel of land on the Butte. Councilman Frank Harkenrider noted that the Butte “is a part of Hermiston history” and “has been there for 100 years.”

• Approved the replat of a one-acre lot at 1036 S.W. Banker Drive. The land will be divided into two 21,000 square-foot lots.

• Heard a request from Georgia Laramore that the city attempt to find a way not to raise water and sewer rates again over the next three years. Laramore, of the Village Park trailer court, noted that the increases would be very damaging to users of large amounts of water.

• Approved an extension of the current Charter Communications franchise agreement for three more months, until Jan. 31, 2012. The city is currently negotiating a new agreement with the cable company, and its legal counsel, Richard Lorenz, said more time was needed to complete negotiations.

• Approved a variance of the city code prohibiting discharge of firearms within the city for the Columbia Basin Mounted Shooters for their May 17-20, 2012, competition in Hermiston.

• Heard from City Manager Ed Brookshier on Village Park trailer court, where two suspected homicides have occurred in a little more than year. “We’ve got to take a look at it from a macro view,” Brookshier said. Brookshier noted that it is not a “high-call” area, but added, “When something like this happens, you try to see if there are lessons to be learned.”

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