Hardesty: Barrels to calm Portland high-speed shootings
Portland officials are rolling out a novel strategy to curb gun violence: traffic barrels.
City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has ordered the Portland Bureau of Transportation to install the traffic-calming devices across a six-block area in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood that has been plagued by shootings — some of which have been linked to high-speed drivers.
In a statement, Hardesty admitted there is "no simple solution" to the shooting spike recorded here and nationwide. Gun violence is going up even as other types of crime are decreasing. Hardesty said that officials must bring an "all-hands-on-deck" creative mindset to combat the problem.
"I'm directing PBOT to be more active and engaged in holistic solutions to community safety that can supplement police and other bureaus' roles in this effort," the transportation commissioner said on Oct. 1.
City Hall has since last year been planting hundreds of "local access only" barriers as part of the Safe Streets strategy, designed to reserve more roadway space for cyclists and pedestrians during the virus lockdown and ongoing social distancing restrictions. Hardesty approved spending a quarter million dollars to replace the plastic signage with concrete planters in August.
Workers have installed eight traffic barrels near Southeast Woodstock Street and 72nd Avenue as an initial phase of the project. Crews will add another 18 barrels next week. Hardesty says she will then evaluate the program and consider taking further action.
"I understand that there are neighborhoods all over Portland that would like to see this kind of close collaboration," she said. "At this moment, neither PBOT nor my office have the resources or capacity to pull that off, but if this pilot is successful, it will inform a budget proposal to allow more of this action moving forward."
Local community activist and child advocate Nadine Salama praised Hardesty's fast action, saying she had reached out to the commissioner in August due to the uptick in violence in her neighborhood, and met with some of Hardesty's staff the next day.
"It has been a nightmare situation for many of us afflicted. We have been informed repeatedly that the PPB, due to staffing issues, cannot help with the matter," said Salama. "We understand that this will not solve everything. It is one step of many that we, together with the Commissioner's office, are working on to achieve change."
Not everyone is pleased, however.
Derek Sims, a longtime Portland trumpeter, said he planned to sell his home and move to Florida after witnessing three drive-by shootings in two weeks in the Cully neighborhood.
"The barrels are spray painted, and knocked down every single day," he said. "It's a joke."
PBOT estimates the cost of installing the new barrels in Mt. Scott-Arleta at around $2,000 to $3,000 total.
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