Over the past two weeks, Portlanders have felt less safe in the Forest City. Especially in the downtown area between the East and West Ends, and specifically on the streets north of Congress (going toward Back Cove and outer Forest Avenue), there have been reports of assaults and robberies, some of them armed — and that's not counting the incidents that went officially unreported but were discussed at length on Facebook and within social circles.
Traditionally, according to the Portland Police Department, June is one of four months that sees an uptick in robberies (along with August, September, and October). In June 2007, there were 89 violent personal crimes reported (assault, robbery, and rape); in June of last year, that number went up slightly to 93. It remains to be seen whether this year's numbers will reflect what seems like an increase in street crime.
Regardless, several locals cite anecdotal evidence to explain feeling more vulnerable on Portland's streets these days:
A couple of weeks ago, two men were attacked on High Street; one of them was hospitalized after being hit in the face with a brick.
Last Wednesday, a daylight drug-related robbery took place on Sherman Street, the same day that a youth was "beaten and robbed in broad daylight on Casco Street," according to a posting on Facebook (this incident was not reported to the police).
A couple was robbed at knifepoint at 1 am at the corner of Madison and Anderson streets last Thursday (three 20-somethings were arrested and charged later that morning).
Between Friday night and Saturday morning, there were four robberies reported in East Bayside, including a woman who was mugged at gunpoint at the intersection of Cumberland Avenue and Smith Street (no arrest has been made in these cases, but detectives think all four incidents were perpetrated by the same man).
At least four other people were arrested last week for assault or aggravated criminal mischief, according to the PPD arrest log.
And Sunday morning, two separate (but probably related to each other) stabbings were reported in the Kennedy Park area.
"There has absolutely been a spike in street crime in the Parkside neighborhood and adjacent areas in the past month ... not to mention the din of street inebriates and domestic violence seeming to scream from the windows and sidewalks of every third building with minimal intervention," says one five-year resident of the area. "I for one, am sick of looking over my shoulder coming home from work at night, and I know I am not alone."
Portland Police Chief James Craig, who moved from Los Angeles to assume his post this spring, called the spate of four robberies on Friday night a notable anomaly — and distressingly different for the fact that the perpetrator was armed with a gun (as opposed to using a knife or bodily force). He said there was no similarity in age, sex, or ethnicity among the victims, and that the PPD is "aggressively pursuing" the suspect. But Craig balks at seeing a trend: "in terms of a growing increase [of crime downtown], I'd be very cautious to say that."
In the meantime, we'll be very cautious on the streets. To that end, city councilor Kevin Donoghue, whose district includes some of the affected neighborhoods, praised efforts such as the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization's citizen watch program, which calls on residents to look out for each other and report infractions big and small. "Many neighborhood residents have advocated for video cameras and a community policing office," he added. "Both are in the works."