Officer speaks frankly on Parkrose public safety

Read this, and see how a Portland Police officer sees the changes, including a growing homeless community, that are affecting Parkrose. And you’ll be amazed at how many scholarships were funded during the Parkrose Business Association meeting …

Parkrose Business Association Board Members William Keller CPA and Marsha Grabinger of Copy Express check folks in at the April luncheon meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The topic of the day was “The State of Parkrose” – and this was also the meeting at which Parkrose Business Association (PBA) members and guests participated in the annual Parkrose Business Foundation Scholarship Funding Appeal – when they met at noon in the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel on April 21.

PBA President Angie Jenkins of Hookset Automotive welcomed the group, and announced a full program for the noontime meeting.

Self-introductions help people attending this PBA luncheon to get better acquainted.

Gordon Boorse gives the history behind the annual Scholarship Appeal.

Since 1998, the PBA, through its nonprofit Foundation, has raised funds to provide educational scholarships for worthy Parkrose High School students selected by members of its Scholarship Committee.

The “appeal” looks a little like an auction – with participants raising hands to pledge money for scholarships, but they win no merchandise in doing so. The pledges flowed quickly, thanks to the lively encouragement of past PBA President Gordon Boorse of Compaction and Recycling Equipment.

Once again, on behalf of her employer, Pacific Northwest Federal Credit Union, Judy Kennedy pledges $1,000.

Within about ten minutes $7,600 had been raised – an amount that provides for, with additional funds, four $2,000 scholarships.  Contributions were made by:

Able Properties, David Ableidinger ~ Argay Square/Century Associates LLC, Wayne H. Stoll
Burgerville, David Borer ~ Central NE Neighbors, Alison Stoll
Compaction And Recycling Equipment, Inc. Gordon Boorse
Cornerstone Services, Dennis Harvey ~ Hookset Automotive, Inc., Angie & JC Jenkins
Mark W. Eves, PC, Attorney at Law ~ Northwest Pest Control, Cathy Morris
Pacific NW Federal Credit Union, Judy Kennedy ~ Parkrose Hardware, Dan West
Signs Now Northwest, Kristin D. Trevino ~ William Keller, CPA ~ Karen Taylor/Mary Kay
Marsha Grabinger ~ Carrie B’s, Kyle Ziegler ~ Grocery Outlet/Moho Enterprises, Rob Mode
Cornerstone Services, Dennis Harvey ~ Northwest Engineering ~ Paul Wild Family
East Portland News, David F. Ashton ~ FUZE7, Diane Economaki ~ Southwestern Consulting
Portland Disposal, Ray Salvi ~ American Sani-Can, Craig Mendenhall
Leadership Works, Michael Taylor

PBA Artie Johnson Award recipient David Borer of Burgerville talks about his career, and the company for which he works, during the “Member Moment”.

Portland Police Bureau North Precinct Officer Jason Jones – also an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team member, trained to help with mental-health issues – begins his “State of Parkrose” address.

“The State of Parkrose” presentation was given by three individuals representing the Police Bureau, the Parkrose Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, and a local church that has been aiding the homeless.

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) North Precinct Officer Jason Jones began by quipping that he was happy to see many familiar faces in the room, and “not from the back of my patrol car.”

The PPB is understaffed, Jones commented. “In the early morning hours, for the entire city patrolling for operations, we have 30 cops citywide; that number goes up later in the day.

“We have officers retiring in droves and, for many reasons, we have a difficult time of both recruitment and retention,” Jones said. “It’s a tough place to work right now – but it is a good place to work. I’ve been here for 17 years, and I love working here; and I love working Parkrose.”

Some of the “interesting dynamics” of the area include NE Sandy Boulevard – Highway 30 – which runs through the area, as does the original TriMet MAX Light Rail line. “Kissing the western boundary is Portland International Airport, a lot of hotels, and the motels – it’s the interesting demographics and other transitional shifts in our area that have made for a change,” Jones said.

Officer Jones gives provides statistics for categories of police service calls.

From 2011 through 2015, “Calls for Service” have nearly doubled, and “self-initiated activity” by police officers is down 29% over five years. “I can tell you that is not because I or any of my colleagues are lazy. Last summer I had a three lunch breaks in the entire summer.  When I did eat, I was going call to call to call eating a sandwich,” the officer added wryly.

“Unwanted Person” calls in the district, in which an officer is called to deal with a trespasser, for example are up 163% from 2011 through early 2016, Jones said. “That’s a pretty big jump in ‘move-’em along’ calls – getting unwanted persons off a given property.

“These kind of calls tell us there are more people who are encroaching on others’ space,” Jones explained. “We need to start thinking about what might cause that, and what the solutions might be. Typically, unless the person refuses to leave, there’s probably not going to be an arrest.  Even if there is arrest, it’s such a minor charge, they’re going to be out [of jail] before we are finished with processing the paperwork.”

Working to “police smarter”
“We know that 10% of offenders account for 55% of crime,” asserted Jones. “These are the individuals we need to be focusing on.”

Some persons are drawn to crime because of addiction and/or mental health issues that prevent them from earning a legal income. “For other criminals, crime is their path of least resistance; it’s their ‘business.”

He and other officers in outer East Portland are “policing smarter” by focusing their attention on repeat offenders.

“We’re also looking at ‘Hot Spots’ – because 10% of locations account for 60% of all criminal activity. That’s why we’re doing foot patrols in ‘Hot Spot’ areas this summer, especially during late afternoons, and weekends. Getting to know both adults and kids in these areas helps cops be seen as analogous to being a ‘primary care physician’ instead of a field medic, who moves on to deal with more serious things.”

Jones also gave statistics, showing an increase in crime in the areas of:

  • Thefts
  • Burglaries
  • Vandalism
  • Welfare Checks
  • Stolen Property

“But, the category of ‘Violent Crime’ hasn’t spiked much,” Jones observed. “This is encouraging to me, because it means some of the problems that have moved out from inner north and northeast Portland haven’t really migrated and found their way into Parkrose yet.”

Helping both housed and homeless residents be safe and secure is an objective of Portland’s Community Policing policies.

Laws and policies complicate homeless issues
He said that getting to know people who are without a home requires compassion and kind “word skills”. “It’s important to build relationships as we’re dealing with this large societal and community problem. I would much rather have people’s respect, with them knowing I will treat them fairly, and judge them for their situation.

However, a dozen or so complicated laws, along with Supreme Court decisions, have made things more difficult for officers, Jones said.

“On the State level there is a law specifically about police,” Jones pointed out. “The law says that police cannot ‘target’ the homeless, and if we do it’s a crime.

“So what do you think cops are doing – are cops now the criminals?” the officer asked rhetorically. “What does ‘targeting’ mean?”

The City of Portland put in place a policy that says, if caught “targeting homeless”, officers would be judged not by “reasonable doubt” – a high burden of proof – but simply by “a preponderance of the evidence”. And, if an officer is “convicted” of that, they would likely not be put in jail, Jones said, but that can be grounds for firing.

“So a lot of good cops say they’re not about to deal with the homeless anymore,” Jones observed. “But, I’m still willing to make contact, because I’m willing to find out who the people are in our community. I would much rather have a good relationship with them than a bad one.”

Historic Parkrose Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative Director Dr. Mingus Mapps tells how his group has gotten involved with helping the homeless.

Because they share an office in the Parkrose Community Policing Station, Historic Parkrose Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative Director Dr. Mingus Mapps remarked that his organization has become familiar with the frustrations and challenges that officers deal with when it comes to the area’s homeless population.

“This realization started a series of discussions at our office, and this expanded out to the business community and faith groups,” Mapps said.

“We realize it’s a complex program; our strategy has been to go out and listen to different constituencies,” explained Mapps. “We hold meetings with the homeless community in Parkrose about once a month and find out what’s going on there, and how we can help. It’s also about how we can communicate to them things that are happening in the neighborhood that they are part of that are not going well with businesses and residents.”

Through “listening sessions”, Dr. Mapps says the homeless say they have many of the same concerns as those living in residences.

One of the things Mapps said he found fascinating is that homeless people have many of the same concerns of those who live in houses or apartments. “They’re frustrated by a lack of garbage service, and it’s frustrating for them because they don’t have a way to organize their lives. Also, for person who has a messy camp, it brings in rodents and raccoons.”

Mapps told how his organization got garbage bags donated by Parkrose Hardware, and arranged for weekly pickup of full bags by Multnomah County Community Service workers.

We are trying to kind of find a way that we can all get along,” says St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church “Visioneer” Joshua Kingsley.

“Who else here feels like there is an emerging problem in Parkrose?” asked St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church “Visioneer” Joshua Kingsley, who has worked with both the police and Historic Parkrose regarding the homeless issue.

“I think what we are talking about is how we have an opportunity to ‘shift the dynamic’, suggested Kingsley. “We don’t control other people; we don’t control what homeless people and the working poor do. But, we certainly can control ourselves and our community.  If we control our behavior, everybody else’s behavior will change as well, because we’re all part of the same system.

“So we are trying to kind of find a way that we can all get along,” added Kingsley. “Most people who live in Parkrose, including the homeless community, want the same thing – economic development; a way to make money; safety – and a reasonable assurance that there is protection of private property.”

He agrees with Officer Jones, Kingsley added, that the first step is to build relationships. “It’s difficult to do things with other people without establishing a relationship. Hopefully this relationship is built on listening and compassion, while also being aware of one’s needs.”

Providing garbage pickup and portable toilets are “teeny tiny projects, and things have gotten a bit teeny tiny better,” Kingsley said. “I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

Meet with the PBA
On June 23, meet the four Parkrose High Scholars who will each receive a $2,000 Portland Business Foundation Scholarship.

The group meets, starting at 11:30 a.m., at the Holiday Inn Airport, 8439 NE Columbia Blvd. (in the hotel building, around the back, at the former Flirt’s entrance – not the Convention Center next door). The meeting is free, and the buffet lunch is $18, including dessert and gratuity; reservations are NOT required.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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