Drugs driving property crimes in SE, police detective says

Learn why cops say meth addicts keep them busy busting crime; get an update on how cops are battling sex-on-the-street prostitution; and discover “common sense” ways you can protect yourself ‚Ķ

East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs, SE Crime Prevention Specialist Katherine Anderson and SE Precinct Commander Derrick Foxworth lead off Public Safety Forum at Vestal School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
People interested in getting the real facts about crime in Southeast Portland got to learn the real truth at a Public Safety Forum held at Vestal School on SE 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Commander Derrick Foxworth gives a statistical review of crime in SE Portland.

After introductions, SE Precinct Commander Derrick Foxworth started off by telling the audience of about 40 individuals that, overall, crime was declining slightly.

“But we still fight crime every day,” Fosworth said. “Property crime and identify theft are the most prevalent crimes. In terms of dollar losses, it’s a huge problem. We need to apply more resources to it. We have two officers working full time in SE Precinct on identity theft issues.”

NTR’s crime-fighting role
A specialized group of officers, called the Neighborhood Response Team (NRT), work to resolve chronic neighborhood problems, explained NRT Officer Brendan McGuire.

Officer Brendan McGuire explains how NRT members improve neighborhood quality of life.

“We partner with Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s Crime Prevention Specialists and city agencies to work on problems,” McGuire said. “NRT officers have the time to work on issues like drug houses, problem liquor establishments, and dance clubs with noise issues, as well as work on relationships with the transient communities.”

Regarding property crime, McGuire told the group that, in the vast majority of violent crimes, the victim and the offender know each other. “Property crimes are more randomized. A whole community can be affected by offenders who don’t have any ties the neighborhood.”

An example of a recent success, McGuire went on, was solving a string of more than 30 burglaries in the Sellwood area. “NRT Officer Heidi Helwig, through the combined efforts of several agencies, found the perpetrators came from transient camps along Johnson Creek.”

Meth fuels SE Crime
Typically, when we find someone doing property crimes, they are also doing drugs,” began SE Precinct Detective Dan Andrew. “And that drug is usually methamphetamine.”

SE Precinct Detective Dan Andrew links crime in inners SE Portland to meth use.

Andrew said a meth addict has “more energy than three normal people. And, all that energy is directed toward finding ways to buy more meth.”

While some criminal gangs will rent a truck and clean out an entire house, the detective said most crimes are cat burglaries. “They’re very bold. They’ll sneak in a doggie door; find an unlocked door or window. Inside, they’ll take a wallet on the counter or grab a computer bag.” If they find credit cards, he added, they’ll run to the nearest store and buy merchandise or draw out cash.

Gambling tied to drug use
While the crook’s ‘main urge in life’ is to commit property crime to fuel their drug habit, Andrew continued, they’ll also commit burglary, fraud, theft and car prowls to support their gambling problems. “We’re seeing a growing number of drug users who are also avid gamblers.”

Crook’s shopping list
According to the detective, jewelry is the most popular stolen item.

“Next are laptop computers, I-Pods, Palm Pilots, and cell phones ‚Äì they’re small, popular, and easily sold for cash. They’re always on the lookout for checkbooks, wallets, or anything that might contain a credit card.”

Common sense protection
Andrew gave attendees several “common-sense” ways to protect themselves which he also asked us to share ‚Äì especially related to laptops and small electronics.

“Many people have their entire lives, including banking information, on their laptop or Palm Pilot. At home, take a moment to slide your laptop where it can’t be seen. Don’t leave your laptop or small electronic item, in your car. In fact, don’t leave anything that LOOKS like it could be of value in your vehicle.”

Far too often, Andrew reported, people at Reed College set down their laptop or other device to buy a cup of coffee. “Even though it may only take a moment, when they look back ‚Äì it’s gone!”

“Keep a list of serial numbers for your expensive portable gear,” advised Andrew. “We can’t prosecute a case, nor return items, without positive identification.”

The detective advised against giving out one’s Social Security number. “No one needs a child’s Social Security. Don’t give it doctors, dentists, or other service providers. Too often, when the information is discarded, a ‘tweeker’ is waiting to get it.”

Form a Neighborhood Watch group: “When you see individuals riding their bikes in the dark, or wandering slowly through the neighborhood wearing a backpack, they are probably up to no good. When citizens work with their police–crime, and the fear of crime goes down, and livability goes up.”

Prostitution not going down along 82nd Ave.
Because 82nd Ave. of Roses acts as a dividing line between Southeast and East Precincts, officers from both areas are continuing their ongoing battle against street prostitution there.

Reporting on prostitution trends is Officer Jeff Kaer.

According to information presented by Officer Jeff Kaer, a disturbing trend they’re seeing is younger females being prostituted. “We find girls as young as 14 years of age working the street.”

Drugs and gangs fueling street sex
Other troubling trends include finding more drugs and weapons during their missions. “More and more, we see prostitution being a gang enterprise,” Kaer revealed.

“We’re running into more gang members who use young girls to make them money. They are violent people, watching their girls work.” He added that the gang members don’t appear to be protecting the girls; instead, they’re protecting their illegal business.

Kaer made it clear that prostitution is not a victimless crime. “In addition to the drugs, gang involvement and violence, there are neighborhood livability issues. We continue to see used condoms and needles littering lawns and curbs on side streets within a couple of blocks of 82nd.”

Missions attempt to reduce street sex for sale
The officer told the group that police missions target customers, “johns”, as well as prostituted women.

“When we make arrests,” Kaer continued, “we make a Prostitution-free Zone exclusion. It takes time for the exclusion to go through the system to become activated.”

Their missions, he said, run for about two weeks. “A lot of the prostitution disappears. Then, we wait for the exclusions to take effect so that they are enforceable.”

In a recent mission, about 30 prostitutes were arrested. And, with female officers acting as decoys, they also arrested 54 “johns” in one week ‚Äì with 41 vehicles seized for forfeiture.

“When we can make an exclusion stick,” Kaer said, “out of 80 arrests, only seven were re-arrested.”

Help for prostitutes
Sadly, the officer commented, very few prostitutes will turn in their pimp, or try to escape the business. “We’ve taken some underage girls into protective custody, but their pimp’s hold is very strong.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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