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Of all the ideas to discourage all the shooting incidents in Inner Southeast, this one seemed the most unlikely, but...

DAVID F. ASHTON - Although some thought the idea quaint, neighbors say that orange traffic barrels - like this one, at the edge of Mt. Scott City Park - have dramatically reduced shootings in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood. Go figure. Over the past few months, THE BEE has reported numerous shooting incidents taking place in the previously quiet Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood; sometimes two or more major incidents per issue.

Although shootings have taken place at various locations around the perimeter of Mt. Scott City Park, the main focus of the car-to-car gunfire has been along S.E. 72nd Avenue, from around Woodstock Boulevard north.

But as these incidents have gotten more frequent and intense, desperate neighbors have come up with a surprising plan which appears to be showing positive results. Before we get to that, here's a quick summary of the shootings in that stretch of Inner Southeast, just since the last issue of THE BEE…

The first in September was on the 21st; gunfire again erupted near the Mt. Scott Park, along S.E. 72nd Avenue at 6:50 p.m. East Precinct officers were dispatched to a shots-fired call – which ended with and the gun-brandishing suspects abandoning a stolen vehicle and running off. [Case No. 21-264061]

In the second incident, officers were again sent to the same area on September 29 at 7:52 p.m. This time it was on the northeast edge of Mt. Scott City Park, along S.E. 74th Avenue near Harold Street. "Witnesses reported seeing vehicles exchanging gunfire," said Portland Police spokesperson Sgt. Kevin Allen. "One of the vehicles was subsequently involved in a traffic crash, and was recovered and processed by investigators."

DAVID F. ASHTON - Evidence of shootings abounds in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood, like this bullet hole through the windshield of a car. But residents say the new traffic-restricting orange barrels have discouraged violent offenders who had been shooting up the area over and over again. In that second case, officers did find evidence of gunfire and established three separate crime scenes. [Case No. 21-264061] Needless to say, if you have information about either of these violent incidents, e-mail it to – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – and reference that case number.

The neighbors had a suggestion

"I've lived here, across from the park, for twelve years. We'd bring kids from my school here to the park frequently for story-time and lunch – so, these shootings are new to us," remarked Nadine Salama, who, in addition to being a neighbor, is also the owner of the nearby Green Tulip Peace and Nature School.

"Then the shootings started, and it's been horrible. It's been awful. It's not feeling safe in one's own home," Salama told THE BEE, while at the corner of the park. "It's asking your kid not to sit by the window, because you don't know when a bullet is going to come shattering through. On many occasions, when the shooting started, I put my daughter in the bathtub, to protect her from flying bullets.

"And, it's so distressing to see her be so afraid, worrying about more shooting," Salama added. "For me it's definitely been traumatic. This is why we reached out to the Portland City Council, and Commissioner Hardesty's office." And they asked for orange barrels.

According to Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association Chair Matchu Williams, who also spoke with THE BEE, the idea of restricting the local streets with Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) orange traffic barrels wasn't an official request of the neighborhood association's Board of Directors, or a solution offered by City Hall, but an idea that simply arose from discussion among many residents.

"We all agreed that it was not this way a year ago; the rate of increase of shootings in our neighborhood – and across the city – is unparalleled, shocking, and terrifying at times," Williams said, making it clear that he was speaking on his own behalf , and not as the neighborhood association's Chair.

"I also live adjacent to the park," Williams continued. "We all noticed that cars speed off every time bullets fly; when there is a gunfire exchange, [the shooters] don't stay here, they quickly get out of the neighborhood.

"The point is this: Our area is accessible, and it provides many 'routes of escape'; so, we considered how to slow down the 'escape routes', and came up with adding the 'Local Access Only' signs on orange traffic barrels."

Starts working within a week

DAVID F. ASHTON - The traffic barrels set out to slow traffic have virtually stopped the shootings in her neighborhood, reports Mt. Scott-Arleta neighbor Nadine Salama. After the September 29 shooting incident, neighbor Nadine Salama said she took photos of the stop sign which the shooter's car had just mowed down. "We asked our contact in Commissioner Hardesty's office to expedite making at least some of our streets 'Local Access Streets' – putting orange barrels in a ten-block perimeter near the park, to limit how cars can easily speed through – or at least, to try to force them to slow down on every block."

As a result of the neighbors' request, PBOT set out ten barrels within days. And, on October 6, the Bureau placed another eighteen barrels. Would you have guessed that people driving stolen cars and firing guns could be discouraged by 28 orange barrels?

"There have been a lot of naysayers in the community; a lot of people wondered how putting barrels in the street would reduce the shootings here," Salama conceded. "But, we've seen a big change – and I mean big difference. Before the barrels, the sound of engines revving, squealing tires, racing – and shooting – were so loud, my daughter would cover her ears.

"Since the barrels went into the streets, it's never been this quiet since I've lived here!" Salama beamed. "We hope that those who have been causing these problems will see the barrels and reconsider. We will continue to fight for our neighborhood."

No longer considering moving away

DAVID F. ASHTON - New to the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood, Melody Brooks says she was thinking of moving away just a month after she arrived, because of all the shooting nearby; the orange traffic barrels have so discouraged the shootings that now she plans to stay. Also commenting on the situation was new neighbor Melody Brooks, who said she'd moved here from Georgia on September 1 – and she chose to live in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood based upon the recommendation of others.

"The first week I was here, a shooting, then more shootings week after week, sometime twice a week, and within feet of my front door," said Brooks. "Before my neighbors took on this problem, I was considering relocation – yes, only a month after arriving, Now, I'm very hopeful. I feel safer now; my friends say they feel comfortable visiting, and it looks as if I'll be staying here for the rest of my lease." As a postscript to this story, on Saturday, October 9, at 6:39 p.m., shots again rang out near Mount Scott Park. BUT, this shooting took place along S.E. Harold Street at 73rd Avenue – where there are no barrels! Responding East Precinct officers did locate a crime scene, but found no victims. (This is Case No. 21-282314.)

Will the bad guys with guns and fast cars continue to be intimidated by orange barrels? It's certainly a start! THE BEE will keep watching the situation, and will report how this idea is working out. And we'll tell of any other public safety ideas that neighbors come up with in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood.


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