Cop bureaus join forces to end ‘crime crisis’ on Portland/Gresham border

With the area between Portland and Gresham, along the MAX line, getting to be as lawless as an old Western stagecoach stop, see what law enforcement agencies plan to do about it …

Portland and Gresham police department leaders, flanked by officials from both cities, say their determined to cut crime along outer East Portland MAX stops at a Sept. 10 press conference.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because of the current rash of shootings, stabbings, muggings, beatings, and drug-dealing at the 162 Avenue/E. Burnside Street MAX station area – where Portland ends and Gresham begins – the Portland Police Bureau is joining forces with Gresham cops to slow the escalating crime wave.

Incidents in the area have been too numerous; within the week, no less than 18 violent crimes have been reported. September 10, a shotgun assault occurred, as did an attack on a 30-year-old man by as many as 20 young thugs – one brandishing a pistol.

People living in the area – especially the elderly – say they’re afraid to leave their homes or apartments for fear of being mugged or murdered for $5 or a wristwatch.

Late afternoon, September 11, we arrive at a press conference set up at the westbound MAX platform, and find Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs, and Transit Police Commander Donna Henderson, joined by East Portland Crime Reduction Specialist Teri Poppino and Gang Taskforce coordinator Harry Jackson, all ready to speak out.

Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso says “…our intention is to take back these streets …”

Not a one-city problem
“This isn’t a one-city problem,” Piluso begins, “This is all our concern. We’re standing on the boundary between Portland and Gresham. While we acknowledge that boundary, we know crime knows no jurisdictional boundaries.

“During June, July, and August, in this immediate area, there have been 25 reported assaults, 10 vandalisms, 17 drug offences, and 57 high priority crimes including robbery, serious assault, and auto theft.”

Piluso goes on, detailing numerous arrests made during joint police missions in late August and early September. “Enough is enough. We are more than doubling our resources in this area, for as long as it takes to make a difference. It is our intention to take back these streets from a criminal element that disrupting our citizens who work, live, and plan a visit to this area.”

The police of both cities intend to “send a message” to citizens and crooks, says Gresham Capt. Tim Gerkman

Next, Gresham Capt. Tim Gerkman steps up to the podium. He tells reporters that Portland and Gresham officers will saturate the area on foot, in cars, riding motorcycles, and on bicycles. “We hope to send a message to law-abiding citizens in this area that we’re not going to tolerate this criminal behavior any longer. We’re going to take back the streets and the area and make it safe.”

Portland police adds officers to area
Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs outlines why he’s assigning additional officers to the area. “Over the last few months, we’ve noted an increase of violence and intimidation happening here. A woman, living right here in this area, just told me that a rock was thrown through her window for no reason. Last night, a stray bullet went into a victim’s home. I’m committed to authorize the overtime needed to take this area back.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs says he’s authorized overtime to keep Portland cops at troubled intersections.

After confirming Gerkman’s strategy, Crebs adds, “This is a short term fix. We’re working with all city agencies to create a long-term solution to this problem.” For example, he states they’re going to press to have trouble-making apartment tenants evicted. “This is along-term project. It won’t be solved overnight.”

Just a quick fix?
When they call for questions, we ask, “There are incidents happening every night at this, and other MAX stops in outer East Portland and western Gresham. Why take this action now?

Piluso responds, “As I said earlier, we’ve seen this escalate and escalate. We’ve had enough.”

Saying that residents have said they’re skeptical that the police will be here long term, a TV reporter asks, “How dedicated are you to the long term?”

“By the sheer presence of everybody standing here today,” Piluso rejoins, “I can tell you that the Gresham Police Department is in this for the long haul. It isn’t going away overnight; it isn’t going away in a week. We will work with this community, as well as our law enforcement partners, to not just displace but to work hard to solve. We’re bringing the right people together to put the right plan together.”

Commander Crebs adds, “We can’t solve the problem ourselves. We need the citizens’ help. Some citizens are scared, but we need them to step up and help out by being our eyes and ears to report crime. If citizens see crime, they must call 911 immediately.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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