Recently New York Times columnist wrote a fascinating piece titled The Benefits of Talking to Strangers in which she explored the positive effects of casual relationships on well-being and health. This has become even more obvious to many of us because of the partial quarantine we are living through. And it also brought to mind the many Neighborhood Watch southwest neighborhoods benefit from.
Neighborhood Watch is a crime prevention program that stresses education and focuses on building stronger, more resilient and better prepared neighborhoods. Today's Watch groups incorporate activities and events that address crime prevention issues, but also promote emergency preparedness and bring unity to a neighborhood. Neighborhood Watch groups participate in community cleanups, potluck socials and other events that improve the quality of life for residents. Although the City of Portland did away with its own Crime Prevention Program and no longer sells the Neighborhood Watch signs, that doesn't mean you can't start your own Neighborhood Watch group. There are already a number of organized Neighborhood Watch groups in Southwest Portland.
Good training will show residents how to avoid being easy targets of property crime and teach neighbors how to help themselves by identifying and reporting criminal activity. Neighborhood Watch is not at all about vigilantism. Membership in a group does not give one permission to take the law into one's own hands. Instead, participants are educated about when to call 9-1-1, a non-emergency reporting system, or neither. Members should also be trained to check their implicit biases and use friendliness, rather than hostility, when encountering suspicious activity and when collaborating with one another to solve neighborhood issues. The point is to bond with your neighbors and watch out for each other and your properties.
1. Recruit and Organize
You will want to reach out to the neighbors on your block. Neighborhood Watch works best when members of your group are within eye or earshot of one another. On winding hillside streets in SWHRL, watch groups sometimes include neighbors on multiple streets that have views of neighbors home from above or below. For condominium or apartment complexes, perhaps limiting the group to your development might make sense.
2. Contact the Office of Civic and Community Life either directly or through your Neighborhood Association or Neighborhood Coalition Public Safety Committee Chairperson and set up a Neighbors Together Training.
Civic Life Community Safety Coordinators Jenni Pullen and Sarah Berkemeier currently cover the SWHRL neighborhood. They are a wealth of information and can tailor the content of the training to meet your needs. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/civic/article/739615
3. Hold the first meeting
At your training, discuss community concerns. Complete contact info forms from each participating household and appoint a Neighborhood Watch Captain responsible for collecting and updating the information. If your group chooses to post Neighborhood Watch signs in your neighborhood, take up a collection to share the cost. Those unable to make a financial contribution sometimes donate their time installing signs.
4. Create a Block Map and a communication plan.
Create a map of your Neighborhood Watch area marking each participating household, including name and phone number and distribute it to members of your group so that neighbors will be able to contact one another quickly if needed.
For less urgent communications, decide on the best method. Does your Neighborhood Watch group prefer email communication or a Google group or both? Do you have neighbors who do not have internet access or who do not use email? Consider a phone tree for them. Alert your neighbors if you have been the victim of a crime. Coordinate with your neighbors to move trash cans and pick up mail or newspapers if you're out of town.
5. Get in touch with Neighborhood Watch groups near yours
Connecting Neighborhood Watch Captains in adjacent areas is a great way to share public safety information, trends and training ideas.
6. Hold a meeting or other event at least once a year
After all, the point is to build stronger, more resilient neighborhoods by being good neighbors and promoting community engagement! Some Neighborhood Watch groups meet a few times a year and others meet only once a year. What these meetings look like can vary - some groups casually share information at an annual pot luck, while others might invite their Civic Life Community Safety Coordinator to educate them about car prowls. Be creative and be encouraged!
Quiet Clean PDX
Brian Stewart from the organization Quiet Clean PDX gave a fascinating presentation at our May 20th annual membership meeting.
We learned that nearly all of the Back Pack Leaf Blowers in our area are out of compliance with the decibel level limits mandated by Portland's noise ordinance, and that they emit more air pollution than cars. He also provided a list of lawn services that do not use gas powered leaf blowers. Visit their website or review his slide deck, and then ask your contractor to switch to battery powered tools--it's your yard, your air, and your family's health (as well as your neighbors').
SWHRL has endorsed the goals of this organization, and QCPDX has successfully lobbied the city of Portland to transition away from gas-powered tools.
There has been a sharp uptick in crime, nationwide, since the outbreak of the coronavirus. This includes a 300% rise in calls to Domestic Violence Crisis lines and a surge in internet and telephone scams. The Federal Trade Commission has logged over 8,000 Covid-19 fraud schemes to date. Neighbors have noticed an increase in response time from the Portland Police Bureau. Read more from the Oregonian article.
The theft of catalytic converters (the emission control device under your car or truck) has become one of the latest crime waves. Catalytic converters contain palladium, which can fetch $1,500 to $2,000 per ounce. Vehicles with more clearance underneath them are the most vulnerable, but any car left overnight on the street or on a driveway is an easy target. Thieves can quickly shimmy underneath your SUV, Truck, or Prius and unbolt or cut out the converter.
Here are some tips for preventing this from happening to you, courtesy of the Newark, CA, police department.
Park your vehicle in a garage or secure side yard.
Educate your neighbors about catalytic converter theft so they can be a look-out.
Muffler shops are offering creative ways to protect your catalytic converter. They weld on metal to make it difficult for the catalytic converter to be removed. The cost is often less than your insurance deductible and definitely less than the full replacement cost (if you don't have comprehensive insurance). Alternatively, but more expensively, you can install a Catalytic Converter Protection Device.
If your catalytic converter is stolen, you will know as soon you start your vehicle, as it will sound like you have no muffler. First, call the police! Then you can drive your vehicle directly to a muffler/dealer shop to get the converter replaced. No need for a tow. And while you're at it, get it welded!
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly dismantled the Neighborhood Watch program in August, 2019. On December 5th, Dave Miller from OPB's Think Out Loud program interviewed Commissioner Eudaly. During that interview the commissioner made a number of factual errors about the Neighborhood Watch program which portrayed it in a negative light. In response, our Public Safety committee wrote to Dave Miller requesting that he air a follow-up program with people knowledgeable about Neighborhood Watch to correct the misinformation.
If you are a Neighborhood Watch captain or are interested in learning more about what has happened to the Neighborhood Watch program, contact email@example.com.
This is a friendly reminder to check your property for trespassers, particularly if you live on a house with stilts or on a steep slope. As the Gander Ridge area of SWHRL can attest, with illegal camps come propane tank explosions and fires. This could prove to be especially hazardous as we head in to the dry season.
We encourage you to share this information with your neighbors and look out for one another. People often travel in the summertime, so we also suggest advising your neighbors they have authority to call 9-1-1 to report a crime in progress if they see people camping under your house. Please be safe and call the police to assist - confrontations on steep hillsides could lead to disaster. Officers are professionals specially trained to handle trespasser removal and have authority to identify the trespassers and create a record of the event should the trespasser(s) return.
An alert neighbor spotted a camper with camouflaged tarp.
We have been given the following tips for reporting from our crime prevention coordinators:
If you use the word "homeless," you run the risk of a dispatcher tuning you out or routing the call to a crisis person instead of an officer. If someone's under your house, you have a crime in progress - a trespasser, plain and simple. Whether that trespasser is homeless or not is irrelevant, so just stay on message. If you see smoke, of course, report the illegal fire. Whether the person who created the fire is homeless or not is also irrelevant - no need to politicize it.
SWHRL would like to track this sort of activity as well as the response (or any lack thereof) of police, fire and the DA's Office, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you experience this sort of situation.
Your Neighborhood Association is always available to discuss your concerns or try to problem solve with you. Please don't hesitate to reach out.
- SWHRL Public Safety Committee
Safety Tips and Contact information
The City of Portland’s Office of Community & Civic Life, Crime Prevention Program is introducing a team-based model to better serve the needs of community and evolve the program into a more efficient way of providing services, resources, and trainings. In October 2018, City of Portland Crime Prevention Program will be transitioning from the current model in which one Crime Prevention Coordinator is assigned to serve a number of neighborhoods. The new team model will be made up of 3 teams of 3-4 coordinators per team (North, Central, and East). The neighborhoods served by each team will correspond to the current Portland Police Bureau Boundary Lines (North Precinct, Central Precinct, and East Precinct.)
Another point of contact--Use PDX reporter to report campsites & other issues
PDXReporter.org provides an important way to interact with the city concerning problems or issues with publicly maintained infrastructure. The site allows you to report illegal campsites, potholes, park maintenance, clogged street drains, and other safety concerns.
Reporting illegal campsites allows the city to track and prioritize sites that need to be cleared.
There is also a dedicated site for reporting campsites, where you can provide more detailed information: www.portlandoregon.gov/campsite
In addition to reporting crime incidents to the police, neighbors could send crime photos with descriptions of incidents to SWHRL/Public Safety for monitoring and/or posting: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips and Resources:
- The City's Crime Prevention Program provides education, training, problem solving, and community organizing.
- Report campsite-related problems using PDXReporter.org. You create an individual account on the site to report what you are experiencing.
- For most impact each neighbor should report what they experience each time, even as other neighbors report the same crime/incident.
- If life or property are in immediate danger, or a crime is in progress, call 911.
- If you see a dangerous open fire, e.g. in relation to a homeless camp, report it as a public safety issue, not as a 'homeless' issue. Mention a fire, not a homeless camp.
- Note: 911 is very short-staffed (12 hour shifts with 2 hours of mandatory overtime). Lobby City Council for more funding to reduce wait times.
- To report crimes no longer in progress, call the non-emergency line (503) 823-3333 and dial "0" immediately.
- To report a suspected drug house: 503-823-DRUG
- SWHRL is part of the police Central Precinct, which has 15-20 officers. 503-823-4181
- For issues on ODOT property call 1-888-Ask-ODOT or 1-888-275-6368x4 or go to https://highway.odot.state.or.us/cf/comments/comments.cf