Citations by the Ashland Police Department for illegal camping and trespass have skyrocketed this year, according to a Dec. 13 memo from Lt. Corey Falls to City Administrator Martha Bennett.

Citations by the Ashland Police Department for illegal camping and trespass have skyrocketed this year, according to a Dec. 13 memo from Lt. Corey Falls to City Administrator Martha Bennett.

Sixty-three citations for illegal camping have been issued in 2010 so far — 51 of them to transients — compared with 11 in 2009 and 23 in 2008.

Falls listed 132 trespassing charges this year, a 42 percent increase over 2009's 93 total. Sixty-eight trespassing charges were handed down in 2008.

Trespassing may relate to public or private property. Police estimated about half of trespassing charges are related to camping.

"I do not have a definite cause that I can point to that explains why the numbers have increased this year," Falls wrote in the memo. "I can say with some certainty that we have seen a higher volume of transients and homeless people this year, and they have stayed further into the season than in years past. We usually get an influx of transient homeless people in the early spring that stay all summer and seem to migrate in the fall. This year we have had a large number of transient homeless people stay late into the fall."

The Ashland City Council will consider whether to temporarily suspend a city code that bans camping on public property when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

At a Dec. 7 meeting, council members heard from two dozen people, most of whom asked the city to stop citing the homeless for sleeping in public places. After running out of time to consider the issue, the City Council agreed to take up the topic again on Tuesday. No more public testimony will be taken.

Falls said the police department is also seeing a general increase in productivity among officers. For example, the investigations unit worked on 20 percent more cases in the first 10 months of this year despite no increase in crime rates.

"We have also had personnel changes that may equate to an increase in cites issued between an officer who takes more enforcement action than another who does not. I do not have the info right now to prove or disprove this," Falls wrote.

In the memo, Falls also addressed recent statements by some that police have kicked homeless people. He said he does not believe this is happening.

Falls said most police encounters with citizens are recorded.

In addition to considering whether to temporarily suspend Ashland's ban on camping on public property, the City Council will consider whether to give direction to the Ashland Housing Commission to expand its activities to work on homeless issues. The commission traditionally has worked to provide affordable housing.

City Councilman Eric Navickas, an advocate for homeless people, had asked the council to suspend the camping ban and to broaden the Housing Commission's activities. He also had asked on Dec. 7 that the council allow Ashland Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid to spend more than 10 percent of her time on homeless issues.

Reid has since reported that she already spends 20 to 25 percent of her time on homeless issues.

For a complete list of Tuesday agenda items, and for details on each of them, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=13604.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.