Spike in burglaries victimize record numbers of outer East Portland neighbors

Find out what our cops are doing about this crime wave – and learn simple steps you can take to keep your home and belongings safe from these sticky-fingered crooks …

East Portland Crime Prevention Specialists Jenni Bernheisel, Rosanne Lee, and Katherine Anderson pause to organize their presentation about how to make homes more burglar-resistant, before the meeting begins.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The newly-named Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Bill Walker was warmly welcomed as he opened the July 6 Citizens Advisory Meeting in the precinct’s community room.

But most of the news Walker presented wasn’t good. “Due to budgetary considerations, as of July 1, the precinct will be locked at 6:00 p.m. We will have a phone at the door for emergencies.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Bill Walker tells which outer East Portland neighborhoods are being hardest hit by burglaries. This photo was taken a June meeting – thus he’s still wearing Captain’s bars!

Burglaries skyrocket in outer East Portland
Starting out with crime statistics, Walker noted that residential burglaries are up by 59% over last year; car thefts are up by 12%. “We’re actively pursuing burglars; but we do need more resources in the precinct.”

The areas experiencing the greatest impact during the past month were, according to Walker’s report:

  • Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association: 24 burglaries; and 30 cars stolen
  • Centennial Community Association: 18 burglaries; 19 cars stolen
  • Montavilla Neighborhood Association: 15 burglaries; and 11 cars stolen
  • Lents Neighborhood Association: 12 burglaries; and 15 cars stolen

“We’ve made a lot of burglary arrests,” said East Precinct Sgt. John Scruggs. “Some of them are from solid police work, but many stem from calls made to 9-1-1 by alert neighbors who see something ‘wrong’ going on around another house on their street.”

Crime Prevention Specialist  Jenni Bernheisel narrates a presentation about how to make homes more burglar-resistant.

How to protect your home from burglary
East Portland Crime Prevention Specialists Rosanne Lee, Jenni Bernheisel, and Katherine Anderson presented valuable tips about how to make a home more resistant to burglars.

These specialists all teach “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” (CPTED) – a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior throughout our community. Although the CPTED concept may be new to many folks, it’s been evolving since the 1960s, we learned.

CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence a criminal’s decisions that precede his or her criminal acts.

Serving as moderator, Bernheisel listed the three main precepts of CPTED – natural surveillance, access control, and territorial reinforcement.

Natural surveillance comes about by making sure there is maximum visibility around your home because criminals who feel increased scrutiny and limitations to their escape routes won’t linger – they’ll move on.

The simplest things one can do is to remove, or trim back, shrubs or plants in front of windows and doors – and have fencing that permits good visibility.

Crime Prevention Specialist Rosanne Lee shows some simple-but-effective devices to help make a home more burglar resistant.

Natural access control limits the opportunity for crime by placing entrances and exits, fencing, lighting, and landscaping to limit access. One example of this is to plant low, thorny bushes beneath ground-level windows.

But, the Crime Prevention Specialists also recommended using good quality locks – including double dead-bolts on all exterior doors – along with track locks or pins to secure sliding windows and patio doors – to “harden” a home’s security.

“If it takes more than a few minutes for a burglar to break in,” Crime Prevention Specialist Lee commented, “They’ll probably move on.”

Territorial reinforcement means that public areas are clearly distinguished from private ones. Owners have a vested interest, and neighbors are more likely to recognize intruders and report them to the police because they stand out and are more easily identified.

And, potential criminals often recognize this control, research shows, and are discouraged from entering the property.

“Hardening” your home’s security can be as simple as using pins to secure your windows, as this display shows.

Common-sense precautions

  • Always lock all doors and windows when you leave the house.
  • Do not leave laptop computers, expensive cell phones, money, or jewelry lying out in view from a window.
  • Using timers to control lighting, and having radios playing loudly, make your home look (and sound) occupied all the time.
  • When you leave for a day or more, ask a trusted neighbor to pick up the mail and newspaper – instead of just stopping delivery.
  • Don’t “hide” spare keys outside your home.
  • Organize a cookout or other apartment or neighborhood get-together – such as a “National Night Out” event – so neighbors can get to know one another.
  • Organize or participate in a Neighborhood Watch program.
  • Be a good neighbor: Call the police immediately if you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood.

For more information about the work of our Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement Crime Prevention Specialists – and about the upcoming National Night Out Against Crime program – visit their page on the City’s website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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