Veteran Southeast crime-preventer Teri Poppino retires
Celebrating the conclusion of her 39-year career in public safety, the friends and co-workers of Teri Poppino, a longtime "Crime Prevention Coordinator" with the then-named "Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement", came to celebrate with her at the Penumbra Kelly Building – next to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Southeast Precinct building on Burnside, Tuesday, November 26.
"To be clear, the Bureau has been renamed the 'Office of Community & Civic Life', and our program is now called the 'Community Safety Program' – but we still work to help reduce crime, and increase safety," Poppino pointed out.
Her long career started as she was looking for a way to finish up her elective hours needed to graduate from Oregon State University, and so began an internship through Portland State University (PSU) to obtain the needed scholastic hours.
"Through the PSU Women Studies Department, I was able do a 'practicum' with the PPB's program, then called 'Rape Prevention' – and which continues today as 'Women's Strength' – and I started in September or October of 1980," Poppino told THE BEE. "Soon after, my supervisor left on maternity leave, and I was hired under contract by the PPB to operate that program on December 1, 1980. And, as they say, the rest is history!"
"When I moved to Crime Prevention, I began working out of the East Portland Neighborhood Office (EPNO), which was then located inside PPB's East Precinct building – crammed into a small office suite on S.E. 106th Avenue, with EPNO Director Richard Bixby," Poppino recalled. "After working with outer East Portland neighbors for quite some time, I was assigned to inner Southeast Portland neighborhoods – and I'll admit, I really liked working with all of them – and not least, the folks with SMILE!"
Not long after she started serving this area, Poppino recollected helping neighbors near Johnson Creek Park. "It was one of the first places where 'campers' set up housekeeping, front-and-center – and just took over the park."
She helped neighbors to address homelessness, and helped them begin a Neighborhood Watch (recently retitled "Neighbors Together") Groups – and help them develop communications, giving them informational links and information about who to contact, and when.
"In this, and other situations, we helped neighbors 'plug in' to the appropriate Bureaus and services, and helped them become empowered to speak for themselves, and advocate for themselves," she said.
Another issue upon which Poppino and her co-workers focused was what became known as the case of the "Brooklyn Tire Popper".
"While I don't know that the police ever caught the person, we helped the community to better 'keep an eye out for one another' and, many heeded our advice to park their vehicles in their driveways instead of leaving them at the street's curb," Poppino recalled.
Loved 'National Night Out'Asked by THE BEE what her favorite thing was about her job, Poppino didn't hesitate in replying: "I loved National Night Out; it was great to see groups, large and small, so happily celebrating together. It was great to see people celebrating their neighborhoods; this showed true neighbors coming together, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds – it really helped build a sense of community," she observed.
Looking back on her decades of service, Poppino mused, "I look at the neighborhoods through the eyes of the people who live there, not as a jurisdiction to which I'm assigned – and I do my best to help them by giving them the kind of assistance that they want and need.
"And, I've always tried to speak the truth – sometimes there have been 'repercussions' from speaking a little more frankly than might be advisable! – but, in doing so, I feel I have gained genuine friendships with the people I've served," Poppino remarked.
She summed up the most important thing she'd learned, in one word: "accountability". "That means that when I say I'll do something, those I serve can count on it being done," Poppino said. "A main part of my job has been 'being the face of the city bureaucracy' who will follow through for them."
Already misses 'the people'Although she'll now get to sleep in, and not be going to meetings until late at night, Poppino said she'll sorely miss the people she served, and her co-workers.
"I will miss these people, and I'm going to grieve over this. It's really been… [she fights back tears] a blessed life," Poppino smiled. "I know this sounds corny, but I landed where I did not expect to be, and had a wonderful career for 39 years – working with people, helping them, letting them see that they do have some control over their situations.
"And, when they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps it's so rewarding," concluded Poppino.
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