Russell neighbors learn how to “play it safe” at home

Cop coverage gets stretched very thin in outer East Portland:
Read crime prevention tips … and learn how to get a booklet that will reduce your chances of being a crime victim …

Crime Prevention Coordinator Rosanne Lee gives valuable tips on home and vehicle safety to Russell Neighborhood Association members, co-chaired by Bonny McKnight.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
More than likely, you – or someone you know – has been a victim of crime.

“You can blame it on the city, or the police department,” began East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinator Rosanne Lee, as she laid out the facts-of-safety to 21 neighbors in Russell, a northeast neighborhood on July 20. “But the fact is, you have to take some responsibility for your own safety.”

Police coverage stretched thin
“The East Precinct of the Portland Police Bureau is short-handed this year. Our police commander and staff work hard to make sure everything is covered,” Lee explained. “But, this very evening, your district [specific area of outer East Portland] almost didn’t get staffed. If there is a major situation, or multiple emergencies, your neighborhood could be without police coverage. Multnomah County has very few deputies available to help with calls.”

Steps toward safety
Lee said that forming a “Neighborhood Watch” program on your street is a good first step. “All you have to do is get your neighbors together, and we’ll train you how to set up and run your Watch program.”

When you see crime happening, or notice a fire, or know someone is in physical danger from someone else, call 9-1-1 for help, she advised. Otherwise, use the non-emergency number, (503) 823-3333.

“The 9-1-1 operators work hard to help you. Just give them the facts. As you speak, they are entering information; it goes immediately to the dispatchers.”

The more accurate and timely information you give them, Lee added, the better. If a vehicle is involved in the crime, get a good description. “Instead of just saying they left in a car, tell the operator it is a red minivan with body damage on the left side, or a loud muffler. Note the direction they went as they left the area. An officer may be able to intercept them.”

“Also, look carefully at what the person is wearing. Look for tattoos or other features like hair and shoes. They may be able to change their shirt; they probably won’t change their shoes!”

Safer parks
Attendees who live near parks asked for advice for keeping these public spaces safer. “The first step is to read and know the park rules. If you see a violation, call the non-emergency number and report it.”

Lee also urged them to consider forming a park foot patrol. “This takes a bit of training for your safety. It’s a good idea to form partner teams. Also, take a dog with you. We’re seeing a growing number of foot patrols.” Some people neighborhood associations have banded together, she added, to gain a large enough pool of volunteers for such patrols.

Car prowls
The main reason neighbors’ vehicles get broken into, Lee explained, is that people continue to leave items of value right in plain view. “Leave a ‘clean’ car. A laptop computer, even a few music CDs visible inside are enough to entice a criminal to smash in a window and grab what they can.”

Lee told the story of a street nearby plagued by car prowls. “A drug-affected young man broke into cars around his Mom’s house. One night, He cut himself on broken glass and left a trail of blood back to his home. It made him easy to catch.” While petty crooks often escape jail time, this one didn’t. “Because neighbors showed at each hearing, he eventually pleaded guilty to 24 charges and went to jail.”

Graffiti
“If you see this kind of vandalism happening, call 9-1-1,” Lee advised. After the fact, you should still report gang graffiti. “The key to controlling graffiti is persistence. If you paint it out often enough, they will go somewhere else.”

Light the night
“Darkness is the criminal’s friend”, the crime prevention expert told her audience. “Outdoor lighting makes your home – and street – much less criminal-friendly.”

Her suggestion: “While it isn’t a well-publicized program, you can get lighting installed in public places.” City officials examine crime statistics and look at the physical location, she said. “If officials agree there is a problem, and affected neighbors can come up with $350, the city will install a street light.”

Do-it-yourself home security program
“The best way to protect yourself,” Lee concluded, “is to complete a ‘Home Security Survey’, based on a document prepared by the police department. What you discover in and around your own home may surprise you.”

Lee suggested inviting a trusted friend or neighbor to help with your security survey. “Using the booklet, they may well see things you don’t.”

The booklet, “Home and Vehicle Security”, a comprehensive guide to increased safety, is available free online. You can find it at the city’s web site. The direct link is: www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=31554 .

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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