Problematic Behavior or Activity
The area in and around Sandy Blvd. from NE 99th Ave. to NE 122nd Ave. has historically suffered from high levels of chronic disorder and crime. While a number of persistent issues plague the area three chronic problems emerged to drastically impact livability in the area. First, ongoing camping and littering in a cemetery near NE 99th Ave. just north of NE Sandy Blvd. was creating health hazards and encouraging crime in the area. Second, a large encampment of recreational vehicles had taken up resident one block north of Sandy Blvd on Marx Rd. This also created a highly criminogenic environment with businesses reporting repeated thefts which they attributed to the campers. Finally, a cluster of business consisting of a bar, a lottery establishment and hotel where driving both crime and high call loads.
Impact on the Community
The impact n the community was assessed through four distinct activities. Three of these activities involved community input in the form of conducting a community survey, attending additional community group meetings as suggested by survey respondents and attending other community activities such as a panel discussion on how to help individuals living on the streets in the area.
The survey, was conduct by Dr. Kris Henning of PSU, Crime Analyst Christian Peterson of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Crime Analysis Unit and Ofc. Jason Jones of the PPB. The results of this analysis reinforced initial feedback regarding issues along N.E. Sandy Blvd. Key findings included:
• Issues involving social disorder (Drug/Alcohol, Prostitution, Property Crime etc.) were the top public safety concern among respondents.
• Respondents consistently identified an area running along N.E. Sandy Blvd. (about two blocks on each side) and N.E. Prescott St. from east to west (see attached survey). This area is consistent with the identified problems.
As part of the survey respondents were asked what sorts approaches they would like police to take in addressing the areas issues.
They asked the PPB to:
• Provide additional non-investigatory foot patrols
• Attend more community meetings
• Expand police participation in community events
The results of this survey were presented at community events such as the Parkrose Business Alliance luncheon, Parkrose Neighborhood Association meetings, PSAC meetings and meetings with Historic Parkrose.
Outreach also consisted of reaching out to non-traditional groups. This include attending events focused on homelessness such as a panel discussion at St. Iglesias Church. This was forum discussion designed to see what issues the areas homeless population faced and what could done to help them.
Feedback from community members at these meeting indicated that issue on Marx road (homelessness, disorder etc.) were driving issues on N.E. Sandy Blvd. It served a location for individuals who cause problems on N.E. Sandy to retreat to and brought problems into the area. Community members also expressed concerns about prostitution and drugs associated with a deli/bar/lottery establishment, a more traditional bar and a motel located near NE 112th and NE Sandy. These three locations, adjacent to each other had a negative synergy as problem individuals moved between them and prostitutes and drug dealers used the locations to facilitate their respective trades.
The PPB Crime Analysis Unit did a Calls for Service (CFS) analysis of NE Sandy and found the following:
The motel near NE 112th and Sandy was the highest call generator in the area with 87 calls between January 2017 and February 2017. The bar across the street from the motel (26 CFS) and the lottery establishment adjacent to the motel (20 CFS) also generated a large number of calls. Additionally, a pocket near NE, 102nd and Sandy Blvd. was identified as having a heavy call load. The issues identified centered around NE 115th and NE Sandy Blvd. form a triangle where the combination of motels, bars and lottery venues encouraged criminal activity. The pocket near NE 102 and Sandy Blvd appeared related to the issues at the cemetery.
The public safety survey results supported this analysis. 64% of survey respondents identified this area as the most problematic in Parkrose Neighborhood. No other area was identified more frequently and the next two biggest problem areas where adjacent to this location. This area included the issues on NE Sandy Blvd and NE Marx Rd which runs parallel to Sandy.
The program attempted to utilize a problem-oriented policing approach on the identified issues. First the PPB developed a partnership with Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement(ONI- now the Office of Community and Civic Life) Crime Prevention Program, the Parkrose Neighborhood Association (PNA) , the Parkrose Business Alliance (PBA) and Historic Parkrose. ONI helped organize community events and served a primary contact for the PPB. Historic Parkrose was instrumental in organizing the security program and provided substantial logistic support. The PNA and PBA members provided oversight in the form of a board consisting of community members who advised the PPB during this process. The results of survey and other analyses were presented to this group who helped the PPB design their POP interventions.
Marx Rd. was addressed by limiting parking after business hours and limiting parking in the area for recreational vehicles. This allows a partnership between the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Bureau of Transportation to address the large scale encampments which had become entrenched in the area. This proved enlightening as among other issues large numbers of cut up tires were located in the process. It is believe these tires were associated with an increase in wheel theft (vehicles in the area were having their wheels and tires stolen).
A series of enforcement efforts including undercover missions were conducted in the area of NE 110th to 115th avenue and NE Sandy Blvd. These resulted in over 20 arrests, the recovery of multiple ounces of heroin and other narcotics, prostitution arrests and arrests for unlawful use of a motor vehicle. These efforts restored order to the area. To maintain these gains the PPB, Historic Parkrose and businesses in the area formed a partnership which resulted in a security guard being hired to patrol this intersection. This resulted in dramatic improvements to the area.
To address the issues near the cemetery local home owners, a marijuana dispensary and Metro (a regional government) worked with the partnership. The area was cleaned, a fence installed and increased police patrols helped maintain order.
Based on Research
This program is utilizing several evidence-based approaches. First, the issues identified and tactics used to address them were identifies by community members. A community advisory panel has also been formed to help ensure the program remains focused on the issues important to area stakeholders. These steps will help enhance police legitimacy in the area, making efforts to improve public safety easier.
Second, the approach is grounded in problem-oriented policing and also employs high visibility patrol/hot spot policing principles. The POP approach will address the underlying conditions which create a high-crime environment and the hot spot policing techniques will suppress criminal activity.
This initiative borrows from the following crimesolution.gov: Hot Spots Policing (Lowell, Mass.), Minneapolis Hot Spots Experiment, Police Foot Patrol (Philadelphia), Business Improvement Districts (Los Angeles) – Historic Parkrose is similar to a BID and runs similar programs, Chicago Alternative Policing Strategies – this program employed similar community involvement in problem selection and prevention efforts, Fort Worth Compstat, Broken Windows/Public Order Policing in High Crime Areas (Los Angeles) etc.
There are too many similar programs to mention all of them. Instead the initiative relies on the evidence-based principles. Increasing police legitimacy through direct citizen involvement, highly visible patrols in high crime areas (hot spot) and problem-oriented policing efforts.
PPB efforts were primarily funded through a micro-grant from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. This micro-granted funded crime prevention efforts, increased patrols and missions in the area. However, area businesses contributed substantial amounts of money to many of the efforts, this includes hiring a security guard, installing fencing and funding community events such as barbeques. Historic Parkrose provided both logistic support and space. They also housed an intern for the PPB, whose primary job was working on social media such as Nextdoor and working with business to quickly identify emerging issues. ONI provided staff and helped organize and host meetings and community events. PNA and PBA members contributed substantial amounts of their time to the project.
The program was very successful at reducing property crime and societal type crimes (National Incident Based Reporting Crime categories) in Parkrose. City-wide property crime was down 2.93% and society crime was down 8.86% in a pre-post comparison looking at September to November and comparing it with June through August of 2017. By comparison property crime in Parkrose fell 28.73% and societal crime dropped 38.71% during the same time frame. While crime was falling citywide during this time (it generally slows as summer becomes fall) Parkrose saw a much larger decreases in crime and disorder than the rest of the City of Portland. To help determine if this was due to the initiative one of the areas (the area surrounding NE 112th and NE Sandy) was examined. The area observed a 25% reduction in property crime and a 50% reduction in societal offenses. While it is not possible to attribute the entire drop of crime and disorder in the neighborhood to this initiative, it does appear that the problem-oriented efforts were associated with the reduction.
Importantly, this effort did not appear to impact reported violent crime. In fact, there was an observed increase in violent crime in the area (from 3 person offenses to 5 offenses). The small number of offenses made it difficult to determine if this was related to the efforts in the area but is important for ongoing monitoring.
Critical Success Factors
There were three primary keys to the success of this program.
1) Partnerships – It is impossible to overemphasize the important of partnerships to the success of these efforts. ONI and Historic Parkrose both provided invaluable logistic and technical support. DPSST provided funding, The PBA and PNA both provided committed members to oversee efforts and help inform the police.
2) Resource – The resources for this initiative were a by-product of the partnerships but bear mentioning. Without the support of DPSST the extensive police involvement, necessary to restore order, would not have been possible. Other environmental changes, fencing, signage etc. were made possible by either local businesses (providing fencing, food for community events and security guards), community members (food for community events), government (help fencing and cleaning the cemetery) and groups such as the PBA and Historic Parkrose (space, supervision of an intern, beautification projects, organization etc.).
3) A problem-oriented approach – This effort was successful because it took a POP approach. All three areas were substantially improved through and remain improved due to this approach. Simple enforcement would not have resulted in the more lasting gains.
Enforcement was a necessary but not sufficient component to the success of this project. The enforcement efforts helped restore some order to the area but without the focus on the underlying problems the area would have degenerated back to its original state. There were also a number of ancillary benefits, for instance the POP approach helped the PPB form long-term relationships with key players in the neighborhood. This has proved useful in other efforts as the area still has a number of public safety issues.