Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Cascade community safety effort earns global recognition

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Portland Police Cmdr. Mike Leloff, third from right, and fellow officers accept their trophy as Herman Goldstein Award world finalists.

The Albina-Killingsworth Safe Neighborhood Commission — the community safety organization based out of Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus – has been named the runner-up for the annual Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing, a worldwide competition among innovative community policing initiatives. At a ceremony held in Portland during October, the Commission — one of five finalists for the Goldstein Award — finished second only to a submission from the Metropolitan Police of London (U.K.).

The Commission began in 2006 as a way to enlist the collaboration of the community in making the neighborhood around Cascade a safer place to live, work, and study. With the buy-in and participation of residents, businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, government agencies, and the Portland Police Bureau, it has achieved a surprising level of success.

“We’re thrilled at this recognition, and so very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the community,” said Portland Police Cmdr. Mike Leloff. “This is what true community policing looks like.”

“The Albina-Killingsworth Collaboration” — the submission from the AKSNC to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, which administers the Goldstein Award — described the crime-reduction strategy implemented by the Commission in the area near the Cascade Campus. Members of the Commission meet monthly at the Cascade Campus to share information and identify trouble spots within the community, and then the Portland Police Bureau – itself a member of the Commission – addresses the neighborhood’s concerns through a combination of visible presence, ongoing dialogue with community members, and – in some cases – probable cause arrests.

“It’s not a ‘stop-and-frisk’ model,” Leloff explained. “If we make arrests, it’s based on probable cause identified by the neighborhood. In the long term, we’re reducing the need for ongoing enforcement through the partnerships and dialogue we’ve established in the community.”

And it has worked. In a one-year period, the neighborhood saw Part I crimes (serious offenses like assault or robbery) drop by 16 percent, and by more than 27 percent compared to a five-year average – all during a period that saw Part I crimes rise by 9 percent on a citywide basis, and all while progressively reducing the need for police enforcement.

“It really shows the power of being a good neighbor,” said Cascade Campus President Karin Edwards. “Getting together as a Commission on a regular basis has helped us all to know each other better. Now there’s a sense that we’re in this together, that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.”

In some cases, the Commission was able to implement common-sense, non-law enforcement solutions to neighborhood problems. For example, a low retaining wall surrounding a parking lot was a popular place for drug dealers to hang out and sell their wares, and for street drinkers to sit and imbibe. The Commission decided to install a fence along the top of the wall which made it impossible to sit there; as a result, the loitering and drug-dealing problems vanished.

The Commission also worked with local merchants to restrict the sales of malt liquor, fortified wines, and drug paraphernalia; improved street lighting throughout the neighborhood; and expanded Cascade Campus’ surveillance camera network to nearby commercial buildings. Portland Police officers now work frequently with PCC Public Safety to share information and review camera footage.

The end result has been a safer, more livable neighborhood not just for Cascade but for the larger community.

“We’re a closer, tighter-knit community because of the AKSNC,” Edwards said.

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