Twenty years ago, the community had an unfortunate nickname based on the number of drug-related activities in town — “Philo-meth.”
But through a crime-fighting strategy implemented by Police Chief Ken Rueben, Philomath has seen a dramatic drop in the number of crimes that stem from drug crimes and drug trafficking, such as property crimes and burglaries.
“You’re never going to stop it all and because we live on a state highway, most of our enforcement action is people coming to or through town dealing drugs,” Rueben said. “When I first got here, 90 percent of the people we arrested lived in the city of Philomath. I would say that’s completely inverted to 10 to 20 percent now. It’s the people who are coming to or going through.”
For Rueben, that’s what he wants to see when he pours over his city’s crime statistics each year.
“That’s what you want in the big picture,” Rueben told the police committee while reviewing the 2018 statistics at a recent meeting. “You don’t want people living in your town that are doing these things and selling drugs.”
Rueben has said in the past that he believes in a proper and thorough investigation when it comes to stopping crime. Following through to be able to prosecute criminals often involves the issuance of a search warrant.
Based on search warrant statistics in recent years, it’s not hard to see that Philomath takes its mission seriously, especially when you consider the department’s size. It’s become common for Philomath to serve many more search warrants than neighboring law-enforcement agencies.
In 2018, the local police department served 45 search warrants — the most-common situations involving cellphones (14), vehicles (12) and residences (seven).
“We’re doing it the right way, the legal way … teaching officers how to write search warrants, having a judge approve your investigation before it gets filed. That’s hard, that’s hard to do,” Rueben said.
Each search warrant typically involves more than 20 pages of information related to an investigation and as a result, the officers must spend time getting through it all.
“But it’s more comprehensive and we don’t get cases rejected by the court because a judge has already signed off on it most of the time when we’re filing a charge on somebody,” Rueben said.
Based on the statistics, criminals have apparently taken notice of Philomath’s tough stance.
“You can’t stop people from coming but you can send the message that if you do and you’re a bad guy, we’re hoping to catch you and do a really good job of following up on those kinds of cases,” Rueben said. “We’re not perfect … there are people in town that we probably don’t know who are selling drugs. But when somebody reports something to us, we take it very seriously.”