How Foot Patrols can make a difference
Wanting to feel safe walking the docks at night, neighbors and businesses of the Riverplace Esplanade contacted the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program for assistance. Based on neighbor concerns about trash, drug dealing, thefts, harassment, and livability issues on the City-owned docks, Mark Wells, Community Organizing Specialist, offered to help them organize a Foot Patrol. Fifteen trained residents joined Crime Prevention, Multnomah County Sheriff’s River Patrol, a Portland Police Sergeant, and Portland Park Rangers for their first walk yesterday. Serving as a positive presence and active reporters of problems in their neighborhood, these involved residents are sure to make an impact.
Neighbors typically contact Crime Prevention to get a Foot Patrol going in response to crime and livability concerns at a park, school, or other area. Neighbors can also form one proactively and are advised to do so for vulnerable areas. The goal of a Community Foot Patrol is to engage in a long-term sustained effort that is as much about building community as it is about addressing the particular crime and livability issues. To initiate one, there should be approximately 10-15 people willing to attend a two hour training. Says Wells, “With Foot Patrols, people walk a geographic area and work very closely with law enforcement. They are trained to be good witnesses and callers, and to be a visible presence. It’s not just helpful to deter criminal activity, but it’s equally important for the positive users of the property to see the Foot Patrollers walking, to know that there are community members who really care and keep tabs on things”. Wells emphasizes that patrols are non-confrontational and not about vigilantism. “It’s being trained on how to observe suspicious activity, how to keep a safe distance, how to avoid confrontation at all costs.”
The reality is that law enforcement agencies are not able to be everywhere and will not know the community as well as the people living there. The visible presence of the patrols communicates to the criminal element that their activities will be observed and the immediate reporting of issues will translate into problems being addressed more readily. Lieutenant Travis Gullberg of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s River Patrol says this about patrols, “They enhance our ability to know what’s going on in the community. We can’t be everywhere. If you can partner with private citizens to help do the Foot Patrols, it adds to the services we provide and benefits the community, keeping them safe.”
If you are interested in starting a Neighborhood Watch or Foot Patrol in your Portland neighborhood, contact Mark Wells at Mark.Wells@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-2781. See our brochure Establishing Your Community Foot Patrol at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/article/320556