This past year, seniors at Columbia Christian School in the Montavilla Neighborhood of southeast Portland, were required to complete a capstone project designed to engage students in community problem-solving.
One group of seniors, made up of Sierra McKinney, Arkadiy Mkrtychan, Kameron Chatman, Lydia Heiner, Jiayan Sheng, Hubert Gaoteng, Robert Bristol, and Daniel Smith, felt that crime, especially larceny, was a serious problem on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood. They decided to focus their project on finding a solution to the crime problem, and each senior researched a crime prevention strategy that could lower crime rates in their area.
One student, Sierra McKinney, thought that the poorly maintained areas in the neighborhood may have a role in higher crime rates. Through her research, Sierra learned about the Broken Window Theory and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), which both examine the impact of property maintenance on crime rates. Intrigued by these theories, the students decided to research these principles and educate the community about CPTED as a way to improve the safety and livability of the area.
The students put together an in-depth presentation on CPTED, including before and after images of locations that had been improved according to CPTED principles. The students then organized a “Day of Awareness” to educate community members about CPTED. The students organized refreshments, games, information booths, and speakers at the event, and did outreach throughout the neighborhood to invite people to the event. The “Day of Awareness” was attended by well over 100 people, many of whom were learning about CPTED for the first time.
The students CPTED project won first place in the regional Project Citizen competition and came in a very close second at the state competition.
Engaging communities to address crime and the fear of crime is one of the best ways to make neighborhoods safer. By researching crime prevention strategies and educating area residents about actions they can take to reduce crime, Columbia Christian School students did a great service for the City.