Hazelwood neighbors demand action against violent crime

Here’s why hundreds of outer East Portland neighbors in Hazelwood – and beyond – a are coming together, petitioning for crime reduction, on CHANGE.org …

In addition to the gang members wounded in this brazen noontime shooting on the border of the Hazelwood and Russell neighborhoods on December 8, bystanders said bullets tore through other vehicles at the intersection. East Portland News archive image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

As elected officials dither about taking action on a seven-page, four-part memorandum to Portland’s Police Commissioner, Mayor Ted Wheeler –  offered up by invitation by Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chief Chuck Lovell on December 23, outlining ways to reduce crimes committed by violent people using guns – no “plan of action” has yet been revealed.

Chief Lovell spoke candidly with the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association (PGNA) in a December 2020 ZOOM meeting about shootings in their area. [CLICK HERE to read about that meeting].

>> And, just this week, Chief Lovell’s “draft” memorandum was leaked to media outlets. CLICK HERE to view it as a PDF document.

In mid January, PGNA members sent to East Portland News a letter to elected officials, published in the article “Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbors express shooting concerns to Portland leaders”. CLICK HERE to view it.

Violence issues raised by Hazelwood neighbors

With many shootings taking place in outer East Portland, neighbors say they’re concerned for their safety. PPB image

With many shooting incidents centering on Hazelwood, the second largest neighborhood in outer East Portland, many residents say they’re exasperated by the lack of action by Portland’s elected officials to reduce violent crime.

Hazelwood Neighborhood Association (HNA) Board Member Carol Hasenberg told East Portland News that many residents in their neighborhood have taken notice.

“We have been reading the papers about the escalating violence, and when your article came out, with the letter from Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood – and with the associated town hall meeting with the police chief – we decided it was time to act,” Hasenberg remarked, making it clear that she was speaking simply for herself, and not for the HNA, or other neighbors.

“We’ve gotten letter together on behalf of Hazelwood, and sent it to City Council, PPB, Multnomah County Commissioners in our area, and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. So far, we have only gotten responses from the office staff, for our efforts there.

“We did see that some actions are being recommended by the Mayor’s office to curb the violence; but still, no one has asked our neighborhood to weigh in on the issues,” Hasenberg continued. “So, we have started the petition, and have sent out emails to the other nearby neighborhood associations, to gather support for our case.”

Issues go back to the 1980s
“This violence is occurring in an environment of neglect and institutionalized poverty and racist policies that the city has been employing ever since they annexed East County in the 1980’s. [City officials] have been concentrating low-income housing in outer East Portland neighborhoods – and all of the services for low income, houseless, mental illness, and drug addiction [are centered] in our neighborhood specifically, in Hazelwood.

Some houseless encampments, like this one in the Hazelwood neighborhood along NE 122nd Avenue recently photographed, nearly block sidewalks along major streets.

“Right now, the [Multnomah County] Joint Office of Homeless Services is working to figure out where houseless shelters are going to be, observed Hasenberg. “We are bracing ourselves for that announcement – although, seeing all the folks camping on the streets in multiple locations, [either side of] the Blackburn Center, and the associated garbage piles from them having no services or places to go – this is truly disturbing.”

Hasenberg she said that she and Ann McMullen got together to draft the letter that follows. “It was in collaboration with the HNA Board, and was approved by all members of the neighborhood association board” she assured.

What follows is that letter, published on CHANGE.org.
[CLICK HERE to view it, and to sign it, if you wish].

~ ~ ~ ~

To: Mayor Ted Wheeler Portland City Council, Multnomah County Commission, Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office

Subject: Immediate action on East County gun violence

The board of directors of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association is writing you to condemn the violence occurring in East Portland and to insist our elected officials show some leadership on this issue immediately. We’ve heard conversations all year on how the Gun Violence Response Team needs to be replaced by something more humane and prevention-oriented.

Meanwhile, we sit here, night after night, in the outer East Portland neighborhoods, listening to the roar of hot-rodding vehicles and the popping of gunshots. We’re afraid to leave our houses at night.

Impact of defunding the Gun Violence Response Team (GVRT)
By defunding the GVRT with nothing to replace it the city has created a vacuum and the perpetrators of this violence are operating in East Portland with impunity. Recent instances include:

  • In a single week, Portland Police dispatched over 40 “Shots Fired” calls in outer East Portland. Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood is getting pummeled by a barrage of bullets weekly.
  • In a recent 2-day span, there were a knife homicide and a shooting in Hazelwood.
  • Back in August four teenagers were gunned down at Gateway Discovery Park, killing one of the victims, and sending three others to the hospital. The teenager who died was Jaelin James Scott – he was only 16 years old. Almost immediately after this story was reported it disappeared. Where is the justice and outrage for Jaelin James Scott? But six months later in East Portland, nothing has changed as the violence continues to escalate.
  • KPTV says that in 2020, East Precinct had 439 shootings, more than double the year prior.

 

The residents of East Portland deserve better. If there actually is a plan to reduce this violence under consideration, then officials or law enforcement need to solicit feedback from East Portland residents and neighborhood associations. Seems like that should be part of the process – after all, we’re the folks dodging bullets on a daily basis.

As the part of Portland most impacted by violence – East Portland community members should have a say on how they want their community policed, and [should] be able to voice their ideas for what community safety should look like.

The victims and their families should be able to communicate their trauma and concerns directly to the people responsible for this epic failure, as relates to community safety.

Instead, PPB and our elected officials seem to be systematically dismantling programs that could help with the current crisis in East Portland. For example:

The Office of Community Engagement [& Civic Life] defunded the Neighborhood Watch programs which focused on Crime Prevention.

Neighborhood Crime Prevention Liaisons were reassigned, leaving neighbors with no idea who to call.

The city’s disinvestment in East Portland, while it focused on providing amenities and services to wealthier and whiter residents close to the city core has resulted in concentrating vulnerable populations, poverty and violence here and no one seems to care enough to actually do something about it. The residents in East Portland have been brutalized and traumatized for long enough.

We call on elected officials to do the following immediately:

  • Engage with the communities out here – this involves contacting all 13 neighborhood associations and scheduling regular meetings at least four times a year to update community members on crime statistics, changes in policing and how things are going.
  • An immediate plan to curb the current violence – if this means reallocating resources away from other areas of town that don’t live under the constant threat of getting sprayed with gunfire just walking down the street, well, that seems fair to us.
  • Restart the Neighborhood Watch program – we realize that’s a somewhat politically sensitive issue, but with proper tweaks, more supervision, and better outreach, this could be a positive way to bring neighbors together. With a smaller police force it will become necessary for neighbors to help the police ensure communities are safe, and this will involve communities reporting to and working with law enforcement and other first responders.
  • Make a roadmap and path to environmental resolution – a clear concise roadmap that can be shared with community members on ways to address and report problems that don’t involve an armed response or a 911 call. [We need] a clear path or process for neighbors to solve bigger more intractable neighborhood issues that contribute to an environment where violence can thrive.

 

We need answers to the following questions:

  • Are our neighborhoods in the middle of a gang “turf war”?
  • What is the specific, community-based strategic plan for policing in our neighborhood?
  • How is this approach expected to better address and reduce crime?
  • What is currently being done to identify the perpetrators of this violence? Is most of the violence being perpetrated by a small group of individuals? Or is that unknown?
  • What communication strategy is in place to advise community members and victims with updates on when cases are resolved?
  • The Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Board, as well as residents of our neighborhood, are readily available for a virtual Town Hall to hear what you have planned to mitigate the violence. Here is an availability to meet with City leaders:
  • TheHNA Board Meeting (which is open to all residents). Our next meeting is scheduled for February 15; the HNA General Meeting is March 15.

We want to meet as soon as possible, so please propose an alternate date if these don’t work.

Sincerely,
Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Board of Directors

Arlene Kimura ~ Ann McMullen ~ Jackie Putnam
Bob Earnest ~ Kayla Williams ~ Linda See
Fred Sanchez ~ Carol Hasenberg

~ ~ ~ ~

>> Again, to add your name to their letter, CLICK HERE to open their petition page.

Elected officials respond, in a way …
At deadline, February 12, coauthor Ann McMullen reported to us that they’ve so received several “stock replies” from elected officials.

“Residents in East Portland want to have a ‘seat at the table’, when it comes to all the decisions that both the city and county are making; and, this call to stop the violence is just the first step in trying the get attention of elected officials,” McMullen said.

“Just because residents in East Portland don’t have time to sit on advisory boards – because they’re frequently working more than one job or there’s a language barrier –doesn’t mean they don’t care about their communities,” McMullen commented.

We’ll update this article when we receive more information on their efforts.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

 

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