Police missions ease outer East Portland crime wave

INCLUDES POLICE PURSUIT VIDEO | See how work by Portland Police Bureau squads have been improving neighborhood livability by clearing out a ‘camp’ in Glenfair, and continuing new ‘crime suppression’ missions …

Portland Police Bureau officers work on missions to help improve community safety here in outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Over the decades, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chiefs and East Precinct Commanders have said that part of their purpose is “to reduce crime, and the fear of crime”.

This week, we’re reporting two PPB major missions that illustrate how the East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team (NRT) has worked with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to proactively reduce crime by taking “wanted subjects” into custody.

February Camp Cleanout in Glenfair

At a wooded lot in the Glenfair neighborhood, a court-ordered warrant search is executed by numerous officers.

For some time, residents of the Glenfair neighborhood say an encampment – located between NE 148th and 151st Avenues, just north of East Burnside Street, near a TriMet MAX Light Rail stop – has been plagued by violence, and has been a nexus of crime.

This transient camp is so large, it can be seen in the center of the wooded area in this satellite photo on Google Maps!

The location is two privately-owned vacant lots. “Me, and many of my neighbors, have called 9-1-1 to complain about the filth, noise, threatening behavior, drugs being sold, and fights,” a neighbor told East Portland News, requesting anonymity.

And yes, there’ve been shootings too.

On January 28, PPB East Precinct officers, dispatched to a “Shots Fired” call at 8:22 p.m., found “evidence of shooting” in the area – specifically, more than two dozen spent bullet shell casings. No one was injured in this shooting spree, logged as Case No. 24-22000.

Officers find bullet shells – lots of them – on the street north of the transient camp in late January.

Two evenings later, on January 30th, officers who were dispatched at 10:37 p.m. to another shooting report on NE Couch Street, just east of 148th Avenue found a man with two gunshot wounds. Although he was seriously hurt, he survived — becau officers stopped his bleeding with a tourniquet before he was rushed off to a local hospital by ambulance.

Working with the neighborhood Deputy District Attorney from the Multnomah County D.A.’s office, a Multnomah County judge signed a search warrant for the location.

As the day breaks Portland Police units set up around the camp, ready to process campers. PPB image

While most of the about 60 (yes, sixty) campers in the makeshift campground were still snoozing on February 13, East Precinct NRT – combined with East Precinct officers, the Special Emergency Reaction Team, and the Crisis Negotiation Team – woke them up with a search warrant.

A total of 30 people were contacted, identified, and given notices of trespass from the property.

Apparently, the “No Trespassing” signs posted on the trees of this property were ignored. PPB image

Twelve people were taken into custody on active arrest warrants, ranging from Robbery in the First Degree to Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree. Some were booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center; others were served citation-in-lieu-of-custody, as ordered by a judge in their warrants.

Officers estimated up to 20 people were not identified – they scrambled away from the property as soon as the police showed up.

All 30 people who weren’t arrested or cited were offered service referrals; only eight indicated an interest in assistance.

Camp patrols continue
Since that mission, PPB East Precinct officers have showed up at the site at all times of the day and night. The day after the camp clean-out, officers came upon five campers who had returned to the area.

After their first encounter, day after day, PPB East Precinct NRT officers return and continue to find people at the campsite –some of them like this person, seen here being arrested on a felony warrant. PPB image

On continuing patrols, officers have made a number of additional arrests – such as for Criminal Trespass in the First Degree – for returning to the property. Another person was arrested on a nationwide extraditable U.S. Marshals’ felony warrant.

Reportedly, the owners of the vacant property have been working to clear permitting hurdles at the City of Portland in order to begin to build an apartment complex on the site.

Retail Theft Suppression mission, to car pursuit
Not only are weekends a good time for folks to go shopping with their families, but also for shoplifters who strive to “liberate” inventory from retail stores.

At the Gateway Fred Meyer store, officers arrest a person accused of shoplifting.

That’s why, on Sunday, February 18, officers from East Precinct and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) conducted a retail theft and criminal interdiction mission. Working closely with retail partners, the two agencies conducted stops on suspected shoplifters.

During this mission, two drivers eluded officers, dangerous speeds through our neighborhood streets – even after the police stopped chasing them.

The driver of this getaway car tries to flee, but is eventually caught by the Portland Police Bureau’s “eye-in-the-sky” relaying information to ground officers.

However, with the assistance of the PPB’s Air Support Unit (ASU), these vehicles were followed safely from high overhead, until the subjects stopped and scattered. The suspects ran, but could not hide, from the keen noses of PPB K9 police dog teams.

Wild ride from Hazelwood to Buckman
One pursuit of note that afternoon started out near along SE Stark Street at 13th Avenue in the Hazelwood neighborhood. Joyriding in a stolen Audi sedan, ripped off from a Hillsboro residence earlier in the day, the driver took off westward, eluding officers at what officials called a “dangerous speeds”, even though the police pursuit was almost immediately terminated.

-10 Although not in pursuit, officers along the way attempt to slow the fleeing driver.

Westward bound, nearing Mt. Tabor, the driver jogged up to East Burnside Street, and then back south, along SE 82nd Avenue of Roses, through Madison South and Montavilla, weaving through neighborhood streets before heading west on SE Powell Boulevard before turning north on SE César E. Chaves Boulevard and into the Buckman neighborhood. All this, even though officers were not in pursuit.

Watch this pursuit from the air, as it’s being tracked by the PPB’s Air Support Unit [PPB edit, East Portland News enhanced:

During the 5.5 mile dangerous drive, the driver blew through red traffic signals, swerved into oncoming traffic, and cut off other vehicles – all under the watchful eye-in-the-sky, recording every action. The driver stopped to let out two of the passengers before careening down more streets. Near SE 21st Avenue and Yamhill Street, in the Buckman neighborhood, the driver and a passenger also bailed out.

Although the pair broke through the back door of a temporarily unoccupied home, police dogs sniffed them out in the basement.

Finally, this Audi is abandoned, miles away from where it was originally spotted in outer East Portland.

Arrested were the Audi’s driver, 29-year-old Austin Lee Denison, of Sherwood. He was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) that evening at 7:38 p.m. on five Felony and 13 Misdemeanor charges, including Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle, Possession of a Stolen Vehicle, Unlawful Entry into Motor Vehicle, Burglary in the First Degree, Recklessly Endangering another Person (6 counts), Attempt to Elude Police Officer (motor vehicle), Attempting to Elude Police Officer (on foot), and three arrest warrants. Oh yes, and he was also charged with Probation Violation. At this writing, Denison is being held in the MCDC in lieu of only $25,000 bail.

His female passenger, 28-year-old Shelby B. Steelman of Hillsboro, was booked into MCDC at the same time as her pal, at 7:37 p.m., on charges of Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle, Unlawful Entry into Motor Vehicle, Burglary in the First Degree, and three warrants. At her arraignment the following day, Steelman learned she’d face a total of five Felony and five Misdemeanor charges, including a Felony Possession of Methamphetamine charge. Currently Steelman is behind bars in the Inverness Jail, also in lieu of $25,000 bail.

The Portland Police Bureau hasn’t specifically requested information, but if you have something to share about this case, e-mail crimetips@police.portlandoregon.gov, and make reference to Case No. 24-40707.

Back to the mission …
This interagency collaboration between PPB East Precinct and the MCSO resulted in arresting many people who’ve been putting the community at risk for some time. Take a look at these mission statistics:
          21 – Arrests
          25 – Felony Charges
          33 – Misdemeanor Charges
          10 – Criminal Citations
          10 – Felony Warrants
          13 – Misdemeanor Warrants
          02 – Violation Citations
          02 – Stolen Vehicles ($38,000.00 Recovered Stolen Vehicle Value)
          36 – Fentanyl pills ceased
          12.7 grams – Methamphetamine ceased

We commend the diligent work of our police agencies who risk their lives every day helping to “reduce crime, and the fear of crime” on our streets.

© 2024 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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