Budget cuts have had tragic consequences in the state of Oregon, where a woman stayed on the line with 911 for more than 10 minutes as her ex-boyfriend attempted to break into her home. She was told there was no one to send from either the Josephine County Sheriff's office or the Oregon State Police. The man eventually got inside the house, and the woman was raped.
The Sheriff's Department in Josephine County lost more than half of its funding when public safety budgets were cut. The cuts were a byproduct of government timber payments to counties with large national forests ending.
“There isn’t a day go by that we don’t have another victim,” said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson.
In Josephine County, 80 percent of sheriff’s deputies lost their jobs when the cuts were made. The few that remain cannot respond to emergency calls during the evening or on weekends.
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The sexual assault victim described above, who was not unidentified, called 911 last August. It was 4:15 a.m. on a Saturday when her ex-boyfriend, who was wanted by police for parole violations, attempted to break into her home. Her call was transfered to the Oregon State Police because there were no deputies on duty.
The dispatcher told the woman, “You know, obviously if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away? Or do you know if he’s intoxicated or anything?”
“I’ve already asked him,” the caller said. She told the dispatcher that he had hurt her in the past.
Four times the dispatcher tells her there is no one she can send to help.
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The victim's ex-boyfriend, Michael Bellah, ultimately pried open her front door with a piece of metal and attacked her. Eventually, he was arrested by state police. Bellah pleaded guilty to sexual assault, sodomy and other charges.
“There's absolutely no consequences to committing a crime today given the fact that law enforcement is as weak as it is,” said Sheriff Gilbertson.
After budget cuts went into effect, Gilbertson issued a press release telling domestic violence victims to "consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services."
Chris Mallette, who provides, social services and counseling to victims of domestic violence and rape, said many woman choose to stay with their abusers because law enforcement cannot help them.
“The whole system has crumbled, and we're the only ones left. And we don't have the badge, and we don't have the gun,” Mallette said. “Because they're more likely to get killed if they leave, and when they know that there's not going to be a police response, they are a lot less likely to take those steps.”