Saturday, March 17, 2018

For the record, March 17, 2018

A post I'm having to make only in case I need to refer to this information in a legal case and show my story hasn't changed:

5:30 this a.m., while letting my dog out to pee in my backyard and while standing in my living room, I saw through my window that looks out onto the intersection of 18th and Birch a woman in front of Church of Christ, at 1803 Birch Street. It was still dark outside, but the intersection is very bright because of the street light and all the lights on the church. She looked young - 20s or 30s and had dark hair. She was in front of the steps on the church's Birch Street entrance. She was standing and holding up two bicycles. There was an illegally parked SUV on the street next to the part of the sidewalk where she was standing. She stood there a few minutes, looking around. Then she put one bike next to the steps, behind some bushes, then the other bike. Then she began moving a large, dark object that had been on the sidewalk next to her, and I realized it was a large bicycle trailer with a cover over part of it. She stood on the sidewalk looking at the parked bikes and holding the handles of the trailer - I guessed she was trying to figure out how to get the trailer back with the bikes. I watched her for a while, then my dog came back inside from the backyard and I decided to go back to sleep, but on the couch in the living room instead of in the bedroom on the other side of the house.

Later, I heard yelling out in front of my house, I think a man's voice. Hearing yelling on or near the intersection of 18th and Birch is a common occurrence, including in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning, and it's so frequent that I don't always get up and look outside to see the source. I fell asleep before I could decide to get up and look.

Later, at around 9 a.m. I was in my kitchen and looked out of the window, and could two bikes and a trailer parked across the street from the Church of Christ, outside the Methodist Church parsonage that is directly across the street from my house. The bikes and trailer were parked next to a tree, on the city right of way on 18th Avenue. At about 10 a.m., my husband and I were leaving the house by our driveway door to walk our dog. We saw a broken, well-worn plastic purple box stuck in between our raised beds. We could see from walking over and looking down at it that the broken plastic bin was on the verge of completely falling part. Inside, we could see a dark backpack, some torn cardboard and plastic bags (looked like grocery bags). Next to the broken bin, a rack for our tomato plants had ripped out of the bed and was now on its side (it can't be knocked over - it would have to be picked up and ripped out of the ground with force).

We left for our walk down 17th Avenue and noticed some vandalism of various yard items - a decorative fence and some large rocks had been pulled out of the ground and turned over. We walked to the school and came back home, walking mostly on 15th.

We returned to our home at 11 a.m. As we are responsible for the property between the sidewalks and the street, and we can be fined by the city for not maintaining it, we decided to call police. Before the police arrived, I texted my neighbors in the Methodist parsonage house about the items left outside of their house and ours. She said that she saw the bikes being left there by a woman at around 7:30 a.m.

The police arrived - I don't remember what time, but it was before noon - and said that this broken plastic bin and items inside are not trash, but someone's property, and we are not allowed to touch the items. The police offered no information on how to determine if something is trash verses if it is someone's property - the officer just said that some things were "obviously" trash and some weren't. Because these items in the broken purple bin were left on this quasi city property, we can't do anything to it. No matter what's left, even if it looks like garbage, we are not allowed to touch it. So, by this police officer's description of the law, I would have been in violation of the law for recently throwing a very large rolled up carpet away if it had been left on the other side of the sidewalk near the street on the part of the yard we are responsible for instead of where it was, on the other side of the sidewalk - if someone returned later and said, "Where's my carpet?!?" I could have been arrested for theft, though the police said, in response to this scenario "That was obviously trash." I remain utterly confounded at how that was "obviously" trash but a broken plastic box full of what looks like trash isn't. I have found items of clothing in this part of the yard which I have also thrown away - were they "obviously" trash or, in fact, someone's property? We don't know.

The police did look through the bin, and as they did we observed more items under a backpack that looked wet - large piece of cardboard and plastic bags. The police said they were going through the bin to determine who the items belonged to. They found a piece of unopened mail, and said it was addressed to Virginia White. I said that Virginia White was our neighbor, who lived at what is called by neighbors as "The Meth House" at 2118 18th Street, on our same block, and that she had passed away in the Fall of 2014. He put our deceased neighbor's mail back into the bag and said nothing else about it.

So, in short, you can be fined by the city of Forest Grove, Oregon for anything left in that part of your yard if the city believes it is trash, or for not mowing it, but you can be arrested for throwing away anything left in that part of your yard if an individual claims it was his or her property, and there is no rule for determining what is trash, what has been abandoned or what is someone's personal property if it is returned.

March 18, 2018 update

When we left to walk downtown at 5:40 p.m. on March 17, the purple crate looked like it had not been touched since the police were here - the backpack, slightly open, now thoroughly soaked in the rain, was still visible on top of the things underneath it inside the crate. When we returned to our home at 9:15 p.m., the backpack was no longer visible in the crate, which was now stacked on top of one of our garden beds. Inside the crate, we could see red shoes, plastic bags, some papers and cigarette butts. On Sunday, March 18, at 11 a.m., we left to walk our dog, and the bin was now out on the street, next to the curb.

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