Originally published in The Oregonian on September 13, 2007. By Jason Simms.
When Shawnna Ramirez, her husband and three sons first saw their house facing Lynchwood Park in outer Southeast, they had the same first impression most would: nice home in a nice middle-class family area.
They paid $284,000 for the house in the neighborhood of ranch-style homes northeast of Powell Butte and moved in April 1.
Then the trouble started. The house was egged the first week. Someone “didn’t like the fact that there was going to be someone living here,” Ramirez says.
Then she noticed daily drug deals in the street. Cars would pull up, exchange money and take off. “It’s hard enough to keep your kids drug-free and then to have all that going on out your front window,” she says. “I just had to do something.”
But residents aren’t sitting still — thanks to Ramirez — as crime migrates in. They’ve formed a neighborhood watch and foot patrol.
Gang activity and other problems have shifted east of 82nd Avenue as North and Northeast gentrify, says Teri Poppino, crime prevention coordinator for east Portland.
Or as Portland police Officer Shad Ron told 22 residents gathered for the first foot patrol in late August: “We’re the new Northeast.”
Ramirez got things rolling by visiting the 90 houses closest to the park. Because of the personal contact, she says, 45 residents came to a meeting. There, neighbors discovered they weren’t the only ones noticing problems.
Cassaundra Orndorff, 13, used to walk through Lynchwood Park to and from school. But she made an unsettling discovery on a field trip to draw the large park with its towering firs.
“We found a couple of needles, undergarments,” she says.
Residents including Patti Keller have seen someone they call the “curby bandit” rifling through recyclables. He’s not looking for cans: “It’s like he’s filing,” says Keller. Virginia Bonnerlinn got a locking mailbox after medication was stolen.
The neighbors are now submitting information for a neighborhood map, enabling them to include names and addresses when they report illegal activity to police.
About half volunteered for the foot patrol. Groups of three or four will make the rounds and report suspicious activity. Of Portland’s rougly 650 neighborhood watches, about 12 have foot patrols.
The patrols can be extremely effective, says Poppino. She oversaw one in the Argay Park neighborhood of outer Northeast that began in 2003. Patrols collected small plastic bags that had been used to hold drugs. Over four years, the number of bags dropped from dozens to zero.
The key is making criminals feel unwelcome, Poppino says. Argay residents “had a higher profile in the neighborhood, and the problem solved itself.”
And in Lynchwood, with an especially high rate of participation and a “well-organized and detail-oriented” leader, Poppino has no doubt the same can be done there.
This is the original blog post linking to the story before the OregonLive url expired.
That’s it, North Portland. I’m out of here. I’m going to East Portland. You heard right, I’m moving east of 82nd Avenue. Why? Because this place is too fancy nowadays! And all my gangsta and hooligan buddies have relocated to East Portland. I learned all about it when I wrote a story that came out last Thursday in the O. (Note: The curby bandit was taking papers from recycleables—presumably for identity theft. He’s no common can collector.)