Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbors express shooting concerns to Portland leaders

UPDATED: Read Portland Police Bureau Chief Lovell’s response to Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbors. Silent no more. Learn what answers about the ongoing shooting violence that residents of this outer East Portland are now demanding from Portland City Hall …

In December, one of several shootings – among them, this one along SE 136th Avenue, the “mile-long crime scene” – has left neighbors with far more questions than answers, and fearing for their own safety. East Portland News archive photo

By David F. Ashton

After Mayor Ted Wheeler – who is Portland’s Police Commissioner – disbanded the Portland Police Bureau Gun Violence Reduction Team on June 9, 2020, the number of shooting incidents in outer East Portland nearly tripled in just one month.

Since then, there have been a great many shootings in our area. East Portland News has been reporting them all – not as individual stories  – but in a weekly compendium of all the shooting violence occurrences, simply because there have been so many incidents.

Concerned neighbors write to City Hall
This week, Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbors, very concerned about the gun violence along their streets, got together and wrote an “open letter” decrying these shootings and demanding answers that they sent to elected officials.

The chief author of the following letter, Yashica Palshikar, made it clear to us that these are not her own thoughts alone; she credits many neighbors for contributing content and helping edit the letter, which we’re publishing below in its entirety:

~ ~ ~ ~

January 27, 2021
To: Police Chief Charles Lovell
Cc: [Oregon State, District 51] Representative Janelle Bynum, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, Commissioner Mingus Mapps, Commissioner Carmen Rubio, Commissioner Dan Ryan

From: Concerned residents of Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood

Subject: Crime, Violence and Policing Strategy in Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood

I respectfully write representing the voices of many neighbors and residents in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood concerned about the surge of crime in front of our homes and on our streets.

We seek your professionalism and assistance to address and curb the increasing homicides, shootings and other extreme crimes, most frequently involving irresponsible gun use. We also ask that you provide us with real options for how neighbors can help or be involved.

Our neighborhood was so grateful to the Portland Police for calling an urgent town hall on December 22, that involved representatives of law enforcement speaking to our community’s concern, grief, trauma and loss as a result of compounded events. We appreciate your time and expertise to review this information, yet do not feel that our questions specific to a community partnership strategy were discussed, nor were the patterns of why so many crimes that occur in our neighborhood go unsolved and/or criminals get away.

We also did not feel closer to understanding the nature of these crimes. Whether they are related to gangs, drugs, or some other illicit activities is of great importance to us. We also want to know if these crimes most often occur between neighbors, or if they involve transient activity in our neighborhood.

These are questions that we believe can be answered by our local policing professionals while still respecting and maintaining necessary confidentiality about significant events. While last month’s town hall did broach the subject, too many questions remain unanswered.

We rely on your professionalism and wealth of knowledge to speak specifically to Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbors on the following topics:

  • Is our neighborhood in the middle of a gang “turf war”, and what would that look like?
  • What actionable steps can we or local police take to prevent these crimes beyond being referred to raw data that few of us are qualified to interpret?
  • As neighbors, how might we best respond to criminal activity both when on scene and when reporting?
  • What are the best methods that neighbors are using to keep each other informed and address problem locations/situations in absence of or prior to police arrival?
  • What can veterans or other neighbors with firearms do to help or does this introduce a dynamic that we don’t want to promote?
  • What is the specific, community-based strategic plan for policing in our neighborhood?
  • How is this approach expected to better address and reduce crime, given our neighborhood’s unique situation?

 

As neighbors also we ask that our local police actively:

  • Work together to resolve open crimes.
  • Have increased communication when calls are resolved or criminals are caught.
  • Provide us referrals of who to contact, bring an expert to our next meeting, and/or clarify what concerns can or should be addressed outside of the local policing scope.

 

Please note that we expect that the crimes and events that occur in our neighborhood are processed with the same diligence, consideration and strategy as those in any other neighborhood, and professionalism is not determined by collective median income level or social status. The majority of people who live in Powellhurst-Gilbert are decent, hardworking, caring citizens, just like anyone else, and we live in our neighborhood to be close to our families, and have safe and affordable space to live our diverse lifestyles.

While we understand that pandemic and the movement to address racial equity and justice has significantly shifted the socio-political landscape and created unprecedented constraints, we also believe that this is the prime time to discuss safe and low-cost strategic ways to increase communication and most efficiently implement or use community-supported policing practices.

On an almost daily basis, one can hear gunshots, fireworks, or homemade explosives in this neighborhood. Witnessing accidents and crimes is also a regular occurrence. Daily, we wonder if a bullet, vehicle or malicious person will randomly harm us, our kids, or our property, as we come and go from work, leave for the grocery store, garden in the yard, or walk our dogs. We arrange bedroom furniture considering where a bullet is least likely to hit, and residents are reminded of living in L.A. in the 1990’s.

As examples:

  • In February a high speed chase ended in my neighbor’s kitchen; he and his son repaired his house over the next few months.
  • In April a high-speed chase ended in my front yard, taking out a fire hydrant, 25-foot-tall tree and a section of fence.
  • On Monday, December 17, I witnessed the tail end of an accident outside my home. Then people in the damaged car jumped into another car and drove off. The first people on scene pulled a young man from the smoking car and tried to help him. He was unconscious with serious head wounds both from the car accident and from a bullet. As medical teams arrived, he lay on the road with blood pooling behind his head. The criminals responsible for this crime got away. Later that night the victim’s family and ethnic community collected outside of my home near the crime scene, grieving, and asking the police questions. This man was pronounced dead, by homicide — a 16 year old kid.

 

The other people who caused this (December 17) car accident were not discussed by police and for all we know are still at large. While a mother grieves the loss of her son, as a community we grieve again and do not have time to recover between events. We question our safety, ready our weapons to protect us, and know that many of us cannot afford to move to a “better” place.

As a community we must not grow numb to these atrocities or inaction.

The neighbors of Powellhurst-Gilbert sincerely and respectfully ask that Police, and public servants, partner with us to strategically take action to reduce the crime, violence and death in our neighborhood.

Sincerely,
Yashica Palshikar, MBA, PHR
Mother, Daughter and Auntie
Concerned neighbor
President, Springwater Corridor Condo HOA
Teammember, Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Emergency Team

With special thanks to:
Grant Burgess (editing and content assistance)
Richard Dickinson (content and strategy)

Neighbors granting permission to add their names this letter:

Kristen Clark ~ Connie Lynn Dull-Ruiz ~ J.R. Lee Stout
Jim Martello ~ Laurie Machado ~ April Hoover
Christopher Hoover ~ Tina Marks ~ Malka Youngstien
Amber Hoyt ~ Annie La Rue ~ Melissa Brazeale
Shawn M. Jones ~ Barbara Schmidt Disciascio
Vicki Lyons-Matheny ~ Neema Wallace ~ Lavi Ianos
Marta Jaenke ~ Barbara Stout ~ Donna Till Munsey
Joni Hoffman-Ward ~ Joanne Fielder ~ Mitch Johnson
J.J. Appleton Vetter ~ Corey L. Matheny ~ Pansey Wilcox
Tricia Kendell ~ Alma Arreola ~ Meg O’Brien
Emily Christian ~ Joanne Fielder ~ Mitchel Johnson
Jamie Denbow ~ Lauren Bennett

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, that’s the complete letter, as it was sent to City Hall, by the authors. East Portland News will be standing by to report any response from Portland City leaders to this crisis of shooting crimes, affecting all of us in outer East Portland.

UPDATE:
Portland Police Bureau Chief Lovell responds:

Dear concerned neighbors in the Powellhurst – Gilbert neighborhood:

Thank you for letter regarding violent crime in your neighborhood.

I appreciated having the opportunity to meet via Zoom in December with so many of you who are concerned with the violence in our city and specifically in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood. I am sorry your specific questions did not all get answered, and I wanted to address some of your additional concerns.

The police have a role to play in the prevention of, response to, and investigation of shootings and other violent criminal activity. We are committed to reimaging a collaborative response to gun violence. The Portland Police Bureau is working with local, regional and federal law enforcement partners on investigative strategies that we believe will make a difference. We will be adding investigative resources to help solve these crimes and do a better job communicating with you if they are solved. We are working with governmental and non-governmental service organizations and community members to find meaningful solutions geared more toward prevention. All of this will take time.

There are those who want an easy solution and that is not feasible. We must implement strategies that are sustainable, the community feels good about, is more transparent and build in community oversight when possible.

We ask that you continue to call and report all criminal activity, especially violent crime and shootings. As a lean organization, we are relying more on data-driven policing and by reporting crimes, it helps us know how and where to deploy resources.

Every neighborhood deserves timely and effective police response. The Portland Police strives to provide that, even under extraordinary circumstances. We ask that you continue to express your specific needs and expectations of the Portland Police with regard to the violent crime and shootings. Your voices and those of other neighborhoods throughout the city can help guide the City’s public safety vision for the future.

I encourage you to remain in touch with East Precinct Commander Erica Hurley and Captain Tim Robinson. They are the command staff in charge of the officers who serve your neighborhood every day, and your relationship with them is important as it will help keep us better informed of your needs.

Once again, we appreciate your collective willingness to engage with police, advocate for more resources and ask important questions.

Best,
Chief Charles Lovell

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

Comments are closed.

© 2005-2021 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.