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Portland's new Police Chief addresses a crowd at the former Southeast Precinct building -- and THE BEE was there

DAVID F. ASHTON - Despite a considerable shortage of officers, Portland Police still do respond to many non-crime calls - including homelessness, mental health, and drug issues - assured the new Portland Chief, Jami Resch, in her Southeast Portland appearance. Although the Portland Police Bureau folded the original "Southeast Precinct" into the Central and East Precincts in 2009, volunteers have their "Southeast Portland Citizens Advisory Council" meeting on the second Thursday of every month.

"We've kept this going, to continue the regular dialogue between Southeast citizens and the members of the Portland Police Bureau," explains its Co-Chair, Dave Hillman. "It helps build trust between both parties." Its February 13 meeting in the old Southeast Precinct building on East Burnside was attended by some 30 people. While their featured speaker, new Portland Police Chief Jami Resch, was delayed in heavy traffic, East Precinct Commander Tashia Hager acknowledged that the Bureau's "Street Crimes Unit" was now being disbanded because of budgetary issues.

"Our Neighborhood Response Teams – these officers work diligently, and are very productive," Hager told the group. "But, the bottom line is this: The most important thing is to make sure we have officers available to answer 9-1-1 calls. At East Precinct, we are down to one of the lowest levels of staffing we've ever had since I've gotten here."

As she entered the room for her appearance at the meeting, new Chief Jami Resch told THE BEE, "I'm here because I'm trying to meet as many members of the community as I can – so they can get to know me, and I can see what their wants and needs are for the Portland Police Bureau.

"What I'm learning, so far, is that while most people are very supportive of the Bureau, they'd love to see us more – and not just in crisis situations – on a one-to-one level, to get to know us."

Freeing officers and command staff to meet with the community isn't easy, Resch conceded. "This will take some creativity; because – as everybody knows by now – we're short on officers, and will remain short for a while. We are concentrating on our primary duty, which is responding to calls for service."

When we asked what she's learned in Inner Southeast Portland so far about policing concerns, Resch responded, "It's a lot of the same issues that I've been hearing around the city – which is 'houselessness'. We're working with all of our city, county, and nonprofit partners to come up with ways to help serve these people, as well to serve the impacted communities."

Queried about the specialty policing teams currently being disbanded, Resch replied, "When our staffing shrinks, we have to put those officers back into patrolling districts."

Neighborhood Response Teams not cut

She quickly added, "Our 'Neighborhood Response Teams' (NRT) are still intact, because these teams have been 'carved out' in precinct staffing – but I'm not saying that we won't get to that point, [where] staffing is low enough, that those officers will have to reabsorbed into the precincts.

"We know how effective NRTs are, and we also know how important they are to the community, and the relationships they've had," Resch assured.

During the meeting Resch let people know that the Police Bureau is expanding the online reporting system, so community members can more easily report crimes themselves, and free up officers to respond to emergency calls.

Previously, community members could report only a select number of crimes online, including thefts, hit and run crimes, and vandalism, in which there was no suspect information.

Now, additional crimes can be reported online, including:

· Fraud/Identity Theft: (when there is no suspect) including identity theft, identity theft ($5,000), fraudulent credit card use, forgery, including forged checks, and telephone scams.

· Theft: including shoplifting, mail theft, bicycle theft, and non-felony level thefts (except for theft of drugs calls, such as of prescription medication).

· Miscellaneous: including illegal dumping, and burglary of unoccupied detached garages, sheds, and storage units.

"Empowering community members to submit an online report will save the victims significant time – and it will save officers' time too, which allows us to redirect resources to focus on highest priority areas, and displays the Police Bureau's stewardship of public dollars," Resch explained.

If it IS an emergency, community members should still call 9-1-1 said Resch. And, crime victims can still call the police non-emergency line, 503/823-3333, and an officer will respond in person as soon as available.

Make a note of the newly-expanded online crime reporting webpage available to you – www.portlandoregon.gov/police/cor/


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