'Commit a crime in Springfield, you will go to jail'

'Commit a crime in Springfield, you will go to jail' »Play Video
Many inmates are paying $20 a night for luxuries like this combination sink/toilet at the new Springfield Jail. Police said crime has decreased since the jail opened.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Something looks different downtown.

"It looks a little cleaner - a little brighter - not as much riff raff going up and down the street," said Trudy Logan of The Pump Cafe said.

The police chief said that quality can be measured by lower crime, fewer criminals on the streets and more offenders showing up for their day in court.

He credits the one-year-old Springfield City Jail.

"I think long term, this is the best investment in the criminal justice system for Springfield that could possibly be made," Chief Jerry Smith said.

Instead of hiring more cops, the chief said keeping more offenders behind bars is the crime deterrent the community needed.

The $30 million city jail opened up late January 2010. Since then, it has been home to 2,000 inmates. A voter passed levy is paying for operations of the jail through 2013.

And taxpayers won't foot the entire bill of running the jail: If they can, inmates pay for their stay.

So far, $112,000 in housing fees were imposed on defendants in the jail's first year, although just 10 percent of that money has been collected. 

"In my eyes, the people that are causing the cost need to help pay for the freight," the chief said.

By the numbers, jail bail money collected by Springfield PD has more than tripled from $162,000 in 2009 to last year's $494,000.  

City court judges say "Failure To Appear" cases have dropped substantially. That means fewer misdemeanor offenders are skipping their court dates. 

"The word is out: you commit a crime in Springfield, you will go to jail," said Municipal Judge James Strickland.

Officials said as recently as 2004, costs to the court and the police for failure to appears hit $1.2 million.  Strickland said with the new jail, those costs have dropped at least 75 percent. 

Smith said the 2010 crime report won't be out until spring, but police case numbers are down for property crimes and the crimes you find downtown.

"Now, at least the misdemeanor offender is being held accountable," Chief Smith said.

For merchants like Logan, it translates to more optimism for downtown.

"We're on a roll and we're taking back our city," the restaurant owner said.