The City of Portland’s crime statistics reporting blackout

This summer in a Montavilla Facebook group, a neighbor posted that her neighbor near 78th and Burnside was burglarized earlier that morning. The thief got into the home through a basement window, she wrote, and a laptop computer was stolen.

Another neighbor commented that a house near 78th and Ash had their door kicked in and was burglarized. In another FB group, two buglaries near 78th and Burnside were reported, so I added that to the conversation.

Were there four burglaries? Were there two? Was there just one amplified by word of mouth and social media? There also could have been other burglaries nearby that were reported to the police, but not FB, or not reported at all. It doesn’t take long to burglarize a house and there’s not much to stop someone with bad intent from making multiple stops.

The neighbor who reported the first burglary said she was pretty shaken up by the burglary— even more so by the fact that it happened during the day. I imagine everyone who chimed in on the post with sympathies, tips, and questions were too. I know what it’s like to come home a door pried open; feeling the shock of being violated while being unsure if the burglar is still inside.

After processing all this, I remembered that there was a meeting on crime prevention in my building that same night, with Portland Police Bureau officers scheduled to attend.IMG_1605

I’ve been looking into neighborhood issues for a while, and one of the most perplexing problems is crime. Petty crime like thefts and burglary aren’t going to make the news (unless it’s dramatic), but it is a serious quality of life issue for those impacted.

I got a chance to talk to the officers before the meeting, most curious about keeping up with local crime reporting. I wanted to know: is there any way for the police or neighbors to track crime, any way to connect the dots with rashes of incidents like burglaries or thefts?

The officers were helpful, communicative, and seemed to understand my concern. But there was no formal system in place for the police to share that kind of information, the officer said, beyond the possibility of an informal verbal update between officers during shift change. He said they used to print and collate police reports taken during the shift, but that wasn’t done any more. The officers said, and repeated in the meeting, that they are completely busy with 9-1-1 call throughout their entire shift; and in between fit in cold and lower-priority calls. Screenshot 2016-05-29 at 11.45.28 PM

Crime statistics used to be reported monthly, but now CrimeMapper returns a (fairly cute, left) “404: File Not Found” page. It used to allow users to search crime within a half-mile radius of an address; and if I recall correctly it was updated monthly. The Portland sub-Reddit is not happy that it’s gone. One redditor said it helped them find a place to live, and another thinks the map was disabled to keep people from being scared to move to certain neighborhoods.

The Portland Oregon website also has CrimeStats, but the most current numbers are from April 2015. PSU partnered with PPB to analyze crime statistics, but its most current information is from 2013. Crimereports.com used to be a good way to track 9-1-1 calls (it was updated automatically) but it didn’t include non-emergency reports, reports made online, or if the caller was mistaken. (The example given is a neighbor who thinks fireworks is gunfire.) Crimereports quit populating data in late June of this year. 

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From what I’ve found, FB and Nextdoor are probably the best resources to share and find crime information. But not every post for a page you follow comes up in your feed (thanks FB), and with the volume and variety of posts on ND, it’s hard to stay engaged with the site.

So who is connecting the dots when it comes to petty crime? PPB leadership hopefully; but I have my doubts. We file police reports… for insurance? And a hope that neighborhoods with more action will get more police support.

Two years ago, vandals racked up 300 tire punctures before authorities they saw the pattern and reported it to the public. And last year, a Portland redditor wielding a mighty spreadsheet was the first to notice  a pattern of old Suburus being stolen. I’m not anti-police at all, and I know they are severely understaffed, but opening up that data could help the public help the police catch criminals.

May 1st there was an attempted break in in our building. I dutifully posted it on Nextdoor. A neighbor just a few blocks away was hit as well. The police nabbed someone breaking into another nearby building, she wrote, thinking all three incidents were related. What happened to the perp, and were the incidents connected? We’ll never know.

Two East Portland neighborhood association representatives have also noticed the lack of data. Benjamin Kerensa, vice president of the Montavilla Neighborhood Association, wrote that the impact of the statistics blackout is lack of transparency to the community and keeps neighbors from knowing what’s going on around them. img_2775

Kerensa said he was told by City officials the statistics would be up by end of the summer. He said he would like to see the statistics available again, and suggested I talk to the City’s Bureau of Technology Services for more information. But everything I found on their site seemed geared for other City bureaus rather than the public. I’ll share this story with Council members, and maybe they can offer some answers.

Portland Police Bureau releases press releases (if someone robs a store with a chainsaw it’s going get a press release), but after tracking Portland crime for a while (in both Richmond and Montavilla) before the blackout, the number of  weekly assaults, burglaries, robberies, and hit-and-runs is shocking.

The City’s new home for crime stats is here, but neither Kerensa or Robert Schultz, Lents NA
public safety chair, had seen it, and neither were happy with what was being released. Kerensa said it was messy, and the best Schultz could say is that it’s colorful. I couldn’t figure out much from it… each octagon is a grid where different categories of offenses are logged, but I didn’t see a way to figure out the date and time  of each incidents. It definitely wasn’t user friendly.

When asked about the impact of the lack of transparency with crime statistics, Schultz,  responded:

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Lack of City support has been a common theme for East Portland, seen most recently in the camps along the Springwater Corridor. And without good statistics, neighbors don’t have any evidence about crime trends, only speculation.

The neighbor who posted about the string of burglaries near 78th and Burnside didn’t have much faith in PPB. Calling the police created just “another burglary report filed away, never to be looked at again.” She suggested this was another reason to look out for each other, because right now it’s all we can really do.

 

This weekend!

FRIDAY

There’ll be four bands at Duff’s Garage tonight, running the gamut from blues all the way to blues rock, R&B, and country rock.

Rule of the Bone (classic rock) closes the evening

Underwhelming Favorites (rock n roll) @ 10 pm

Sin City Ramblers (wild country blues) @ 9 pm

Homefries @ 6 pm – 8 pm

SATURDAY

The Malden Court Community Orchard (MCCO) a project of Green Lents, is having its grand opening!

For decades, the lot was infested with Himalayan blackberries and trash and attracted nuisance activities. In 2015, neighbors in the community came together to plan, design, and establish a community orchard in this space to serve as a long-term source of fresh produce in the Lents Neighborhood.

SE 87th Avenue and SE Malden Court * 10:30 am – 12:30 pm * free

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There’s a magic show at Mall 205. 10100 SE Stark * 2 pm * $14 adults, kids $8

SUNDAY

A community flea market will be held in (what I call) downtown Montavilla. Contact drowsyswords@gmail.com for more information. 408 SE 79th * 11 am – 4 pm

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Both Montavilla and Lents have regular farmers markets on Sunday! The fall harvest should be coming in these days…

This weekend!

FRIDAY

As well as having a wonderfully rowdy Thursday night karaoke sesh, Montavilla Station has live music Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s awesome that there’s even more live music nearby, and I’m happy to help spread the word. After spending more than a few minutes scouring the Internet searching for their schedule, the following photo is the extent of their (old school cool) promotion. It’s a little hard to read so:

Fri- Billy Hagen

Sat- Bonnie Lee Plan B

Sun- Bolt Upright Blues Jam

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SATURDAY

As part of FESTIVAL LATINO, “Inside Out” (Spanish with English subtitles) will be the outdoor movie shown on the big inflatable screen. It’s a Pixar film exploring the perspective of a girl adjusting to a cross-country move. Grupo Antifaz, will open the show. Glenhaven Park, NE 82nd Ave & Siskiyou St * band 5:30 pm., movie 7:30 p.m.

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At Duff’s Garage: ThunderFUNK is the hottest jazz/funk hybrid mini-big band experience to ever rock this corner of the world. 2530 NE 82nd Ave * 9 pm * ???

SUNDAY

Both Montavilla and Lents have regular farmers markets on Sunday… on the map below, it’s clear most of the farmers markets are close in. Farmers markets are a proven concept, and I hope to see more popping up in East Portland and Gresham in the near future.

Gresham does have a Saturday farmers market— and its celebrating its 30th anniversary this season. Downtown Gresham, NW Eastman Parkway & NW Burnside * 8:30 am – 2:30 pm

So does Rockwood! Plaza del Sol at SE 187th St between E Burnside & SE Stark * Sunday, 11 am – 3 pm

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This weekend!

This weekend! Wow, East Portand is hopping this weekend!

FRIDAY 

Montavilla Station has live music Friday, Saturday, and Sunday… I saw it on a sign in front of the bar last week. Maybe they think all this online stuff is just a fad, and they prefer to keep it old school. I don’t know who’s playing, but I do know there’s a blues jam on Sunday and they tend to book blues rock and Americana kinda music. 417 SE 80th Ave. * ??? * free

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Having the Academy Theater nearby is awesome… and its air conditioning is a strong selling point these days. I love Portland’s tradition of second run theaters, especially the mix of mainstream and smaller films.  Here’s what’s playing this weekendFinding Dory and Captain America: Civil War both look good to me. 7818 SE Stark * $4 adults, $3 kids and seniors

SATURDAY 

Out of all the shenanigans that go down in the town, the PDX Adult Soapbox Car Derby is my favorite event. DIY design, a day in the park, day drinking, and a little danger… this event has got it all.

We did a short film two years ago. It’s a little rowdy, and there may be a little rough language:

It’s family friendly, but the organizers ask you to leave your dog at home. Speed and pets don’t mix, and there have been a few close calls recently. Mt. Tabor Park, up the volcano from SE 60th & Salmon * 9:30 am – 4ish * free

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The Jade District International Night Market is tonight as well. The photos look amazing… they said 5,000 attended last time. Portland Community College, Southeast campus, 2305 SE 82nd * 5 pm – 10 pm * free

SUNDAY

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Both Saturday and Sunday, the Montavilla Jazz Festival is taking place. It benefits neighborhood school music programs (which are underfunded), and spotlight innovative local jazz artists. Portland Metro Arts, 9003 SE Stark St, Portland * Sat. & Sun. 2 pm – 9:30 pm * ?? 

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And there’s always the Montavilla Farmers Market!

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From 10 am – 2 pm Sundays the Montavilla Farmers Market is on until October! You can double your SNAP benefits, and enjoy a wide range of produce and products.

Also: The Power of Produce (POP) Club seeks to teach children about fruits and vegetables, local food systems and healthy food preparation through fun activities. Kids engage in the full farmers market experience, trying new foods, having conversations with farmers, and buying local produce. Through the Two Bite Challenge, POP participants are rewarded for taking two bites of the featured fruit or vegetable, and receive $5 coupons to spend on fruits and vegetables of their choice at the market. 7600 block of SE Stark Street in the gravel lot across from Mr. Plywood * 10 am – 2 pm * free

 

This weekend!

FRIDAY 

Wanna Be 52’S (B52’s tribute band) / Lagoon Squad surf). Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd * 9 pm * ??? 

SATURDAY 

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Both Saturday and Sunday, the 8th annual Portland Slavic Festival is on at Ventura Park. Including music by Alenushki (folk songs), Chernova (Gipsy dance), Belarus (Slavic pop), workshops, a playground for children, food, clowns, a light show after dark, and a soccer cup throughout the day. There’ll also be a lottery and prizes, the grand prize being a new car.

From the Wikipedia entry for Slavic: The current geographic distribution of natively spoken Slavic languages covers Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the eastern parts of Central Europe and all of the territory of Russia, which includes northern and north-central Asia. Ventura Park, SE 115th Ave & Stark St * 8 am – 9 pm * free

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Portland Pickles baseball, both Saturday @ 7:05 pm and Sunday @ 5:05 pm. Walker Stadium in Lents Park (SE 92nd Ave. & SE Holgate Blvd * $7 – $13

SUNDAY 

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There are two street fairs in East Portland this weekend… The Montavilla Street Fair is a free summer street party with vendors, live music, food carts, and even a kids area! There’ll be six bands on two stages. SE Stark Street from 76th to 82nd * 11 am – 5 pm * free

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13726706_1234164916623555_5206411919662028893_nAlong with the always fantastic Montavilla Farmers Market and the Lents Farmers Market,
the Lents Street Fair is Sunday.

Fun, free, family-friendly event celebrating summer and community in the heart of Lents! Including: Chicken Beauty Contest (that gets top billing in the promo material); Music;  Food;  Vendors;  Zoiglhaus  Beer Garden; Kids Activities including bouncy castle, root beer garden, chalk mural and games; Lents History Exhibit. 91st & Foster * noon – 5 pm * free

Fed up with being ignored, some Lents neighbors back activist moving Springwater campers to Eastmoreland

If you’re tuned in enough to find this story, you’ve probably already heard: an activist is planning on moving homeless people living on the Springwater Corridor to Eastmoreland— the neighborhood where the mayor of Portland and the Multnomah County Chair live— rather than have them moved along without sufficient shelter or facilities.

But what you may have not heard is that several Lents neighborhood activists support the move. They say it’s not fair that lower-income East Portland bears a disproportionate amount of burden accommodating the homeless— and affluent neighborhoods like Eastmoreland should take their share. Requests for help in East Portland have been ignored, they say, and they haven’t been included in decisions on placing homelessness services.

On July 16, the day after Mayor Charlie Hales announced the Springwater Corridor would be cleared of campers, activist Jesse Sponberg posted a Facebook event called Exodus. He wrote that it is being organized to minimize injuries and arrests during the sweep and pressure the City into real solutions:

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Robert Schultz, Lents neighbor and co-founder of Lents Active Watch, was one of the first to comment, offering his support and inquiring about logistics. It’s an uneasy alliance, acknowledged by Sponberg when he responded that while he and Schultz don’t agree on everything he’s happy the 20-year Lents resident is willing to work for the greater good. Since the plan was announced, Shultz has continued to defend the plan— upsetting Eastmoreland neighbors.

Jennifer Young, also a Lents resident associated with LAW, added that people / activists have bought into the idea that Lent’s residents are just NIMBYs (not in my back yard), but the “real enemy” is the government officials whose inaction has fueled conflict between neighbors and campers.

Her comment on the move:

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People are stepping up to support the move: offering rides to the location, and a kitchen for the new camp. The five-year anniversary of Occupy Portland is Oct. 11th, and this movement is already its spiritual successor, no matter what happens. Sponberg commented that it’s going to take the entire city to pull this off.

Sponberg said shelters are nasty places, and he advocates for more places like Hazelnut Grove, where homeless folk can have space to build tiny houses and organize themselves.

The Exodus isn’t the only response to the sweeps, which have already happened in some places. Springwater Corridor campers are leaving on their own, and neighborhood activists say they are relocating other places in the Lents area. Officials are stepping up outreach, and some homeless activists are advising campers to “stand their ground“, and they’re pledging to stand with them. It’s a tense situation, and there has been more violence than usual lately. Another group called Boots on the Ground PDX is establishing another camp on public land. The location won’t be announced until July 31st, setting up another conflict with nearby neighbors who aren’t bought in on the plan.

I first heard about LAW through OPB’s Think Out Loud. A reporter accompanied the groups’ founders on one of their regular trails walks. The program (which is definitely worth a listen) didn’t offer any easy answers, but it showed that Schultz and the other co-founder were listening.

LAW isn’t an official group, Schultz emphasized that the group has taken no official position on the Exodus. Some support it, some do not. LAW includes “radicals on both sides and the more even tempered that want to see solutions”, he wrote me.  Schultz said LAW has helped people into housing, done clean ups, and provided food for the campers he said he sees as neighbors.

Schultz said when the group started they were called vigilantes, but they haven’t received a single complaint. The criticism goes both ways, however. Both Schultz and Young don’t appreciate the what some activists are bringing to the conflict in Lents.

“Advocates drive into Lents and tell everyone this and that then go home and hiking on the weekends while we live with the impact of that division…” Schultz wrote. “Very frustrating to face division from outside our community.”

I spent two-and-a-half hours on the phone with Jennifer Young Friday afternoon, and not a minute of that felt wasted. I was shocked by her stories of inaction by the police and local government in Lents, as they work to clean up crime, drug dealing, and prostitution. This site was started for neighborhood-level journalism, and I’m starting with Montavilla, but this issue shows that all of East Portland doesn’t get its fair share of services or voice in the media.

Young said she heard late last year that there’s a plan to push the homeless to East Portland, and she’s seeing the results now. The lack of police and government response reminds her of when she worked in North Portland’s Albina neighborhood in the ’90s— before the neighborhood entirely transformed by gentrification.

Young isn’t new to this issue. She has worked in mental health for 20 years, specializing in the chronically mentally ill and homelessness. She works full-time in mental health and regularly volunteers her time in the neighborhood. When asked point-blank, she said she does believe services are available for families, veterans, and the mentally ill. Human Solutions Family Center (160th & Stark, 503-256-2280), is a family-only shelter that doesn’t turn anyone away.

She’s also critical of what she calls the “poverty pimps” who have a vested interest— some as a career, some as an identity— in homelessness, and the local media who doesn’t dig deep enough. Homeless people have to want help, and she said it bothers her that vulnerable people are enabled in an unhealthy lifestyle.

Several Lents neighbors say that when they call the police, they often simply don’t come. Young said the lack of response is even worse when you mention the problem involves homeless people. We also discussed the fact that the City of Portland stopped crime information online and CrimeReports.com, the site that used to publish 9-1-1 calls, no longer does. This makes it difficult for people to track what’s happening, keeping all the day-to-day crime and problems blacked out.

It’s a complicated, emotional issue, and as a writer, antagonism is so easy to set up with this issue. But what struck me about this alliance is that it crosses some entrenched battle lines, while spotlighting a point that Schultz and Young consistently make: Lents residents deserve equal application of the law and an equal distribution of homeless resources.

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The parkway on SE Reed College Place where the new homeless camp is planned.

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The It’s hard to tell from the image below, but SE Reed College Place is a parkway between SE Woodstock Blvd. and Crystal Springs Blvd.

This weekend!

FRIDAY hush_wideweb__430x361

Pretty sure there is live music at Montavilla Station on Fridays. I’m going to check it out this afternoon and update the site. If there’s other live music / events in Montavilla / East Portland, let me know! (They don’t have to have mullets, but it’d be a lot cooler if they did.) 417 SE 80th Ave * ?? * ???

SATURDAY 

At Duff’s Garage: Jacob Miller’s Bridge City Crooners / Joe Baker & The Kitchen Men (9 pm). Brian Oberlin, JT Trawick & the 2 Steppers, with a dance lesson. (6 pm – 8 pm). 2580 NE 82nd * ???

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More movies in the park in Lents! Tonight it’s 42: The Jackie Robinson Story, a movie about the first African American to play in major league baseball. Opening the night is Son de Cuba. We play different kinds of genres such as Salsa, Timba, Son, Merengue, Cumbia, Latin Jazz, etc. (I also learned from their website, there’s a world beat festival in Salem. Huh!) Walker Stadium in Lents Park, SE 92nd & Holgate Blvd * 6:30 pm * free 

SUNDAY

Support your local farmers at the Montavilla Farmers Market!