Secured more than 30 abandoned properties

Three months ago when Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger formed the Network Enforcement Team, a strong-sounding name for community police work, he selected Officers Jim Leake and Dan Estes to try to a new approach to solving neighborhood problems.

Leake and Estes were taken off patrol and didn't have to respond to 9-1-1 calls, giving them time to work directly in neighborhoods all over Gresham, responding to situations that were less than emergencies, but still problems for public safety.

Abandoned houses were identified as a big problem along with homeless camps along the Springwater Corridor Trail. Estes and Leake spoke with neighborhood associations as well as code inspectors, the city attorney and other agencies to identify problems such as abandoned houses, overgrown lots, drug and party houses and excess garbage pile-ups.

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED: CITY OF GRESHAM - Officers Dan Estes, left, and Jim Leake have formed a new special unit focusing on neighborhood policing for the Gresham Police Department.Now it looks like their work has paid off, according to a statement from the city.

“This team is doing an impressive job of meeting their mission — working with residents to improve quality of life and livability in Gresham,” Junginger said. “At community meetings, people say they're happy with this new detail. The NET is working on issues that matter to a lot of residents.”

According to Gresham police, in the past three months Leake and Estes have secured 32 abandoned properties to remove squatters or thieves, tagged or cleared 17 transient camps, made 18 arrests (most for criminal trespass), issued nine traffic citations, seized five items of stolen property, boarded up four vacant properties and helped two apartment managers with problem tenants.

All is the result of “persistent, proactive police work,” according to a statement from the city of Gresham that reads in part, “Leake and Estes generate their own leads from tips, patrols and conversations with fellow police officers, nonprofit leaders, neighborhood association members, business owners, property managers and City Hall staffers."

“In some ways, we're going back to the basics of police work, talking to people on their porches, in the parks, at their businesses,” Leake said. “We listen and often work together with residents to solve a problem.”

The team stays very busy, Estes said, and they have found residents appreciate their efforts.

“We've left calls where neighbors walk out of their houses and applaud,” he said.

Gresham police has long had special units for gang activity and drug crimes, Junginger said, but the Neighborhood Enforcement Team is the latest detail, he said, and was created without hiring new staff or increasing the police department budget.

Based on the team's first quarter performance, Junginger said he plans to keep the team operating for the coming fiscal year.

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