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Community safety means more than stopping crime is the theory behind changes in neighborhood program

no captionBoris the Burglar has been retired in Portland.

The Neighborhood Watch trademarked mascot won't be seen crossed out on any new signs warning people that nearby neighbors are watching.

Boris first showed up on signs on Southwest Portland telephone poles in the 1970s, as the manifestation of a crime prevention program begun by the National Sheriffs Association. Neighborhood Watch was a nationwide effort to get neighbors to know each other and work together in cooperation with local law enforcement to prevent crime and make neighborhoods safer and more livable.

Once those signs are gone in Portland they won't be replaced.

But there's a new name for neighbors getting together to prevent crime. It's called Neighbors Together.

"Starting July 1st, 2019, we are no longer involved in the traditional neighborhood watch model and the related watch activities to provide neighbors a new way to connect through Neighbors Together," according to a survey that was sent to more than 350 neighborhood watch organizers by Portland's Office of Community and Civic Life (Civic Life). (There were 597 neighborhood watches in 2014. By 2018 that number was down to 367.)

Those surveys asked whether the organizer was interested in "being connected" with a new program called Neighbors Together and if the neighborhood watch group included emergency response teams. One third of the surveys were returned. Civic Life says 96% of those who responded were interested in the replacement program.

Neighborhood Watch, according to answers provided by Civic Life, "... places primary emphasis on police response to resolve all public safety concerns. Civic Life has been evolving away from outdated models that focus solely on crime."

The official literature for Neighbors Together says the new program will, "better reflect Portland's values and vision to be a city that is welcoming and safe for everyone."

Asked by the SW Connection how the program would be "better," Civic Life provided this statement, "This new name describes a model that embraces an inclusive and collaborative vision of safety where neighbors work with each other, with the city, and with community-based organizations to better address a range of public safety considerations related to transportation, emergency preparedness, youth leadership, and more."

The Portland Police Bureau has had a long relationship with neighborhood watch groups, even though they were not part of the Bureau. They fell under the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which is what Civic Life used to be called before it became Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's responsibility.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese says there's a strong neighborhood watch presence in Corbett and Fairview, two cities east of Portland under his jurisdiction.

"They are vibrant groups," he said. "Neighborhood watch adds a lot of capacity to our efforts to keep our community safe. We really value their work. They've been great partners for many, many years."

Sheriff Reese, who lives near Gabriel Park, says he's not aware of an active neighborhood watch in his neighborhood but that when he was Portland's chief of police, "My wife was block captain. But that was just an effort to share public safety information with our neighbors."

Anyone wishing to form a community safety group that's part of Neighbors Together should contact Civic Life. Volunteers don't have to live in the same neighborhood to form a group. Training is currently being provided. Contact Civic Life at portlandoregon.gov/civic/cs


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