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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Wretched civic failure

Another awful, awful week in the Rose City. A 20-year-old woman went to an underage dance club downtown Friday night. She never made it home, and they found her body floating in the Willamette River under the Broadway Bridge on Monday.

We pride ourselves on being such a livable city. But let's face it, we flunk badly on the basics. Our police department isn't very good. No reflection on the men and women who work there, necessarily -- it's just that the operation's run by someone I wouldn't trust to take my cat to the vet. Poorly managed, and woefully under-budgeted. Under the thin veneer of the Katz Theme Park, downtown is a dangerous place, full of thugs, guns, and drugs. I don't even like to go down there in the daytime any more.

Our police stations close at 6:00 at night. After that, and all weekend long, the cops drive around like lone rangers in their boxy Ford sedans with the exploding fuel tanks, their defective Glocks, and their little computer screens. No support staff, no "house." Until 8 or 9 Monday morning.

By that time, some 14-year-old girl gets raped and killed on her way to school.

I guess when it's time to blacken the circle for mayor, I'll have to vote for Tom Potter. His campaign "platform" is full of stale, empty platitudes, but I know he'd do a better job with the police bureau than the current mayor. She's too busy building streetcars and trams to worry about why we're burying the young girls who dare to walk on the streets of Portland, Oregon by themselves.

When they pull the 20-year-olds out of the river, you might expect to see an emergency press conference vowing some sort of action. Not from this mayor. Sound asleep in her designer sheets, dreaming of the next lovely thing she can say about urban renewal districts and gay rights.

Anyone could do better with the police bureau. Extremo the Clown is starting to look like a good alternative.

Comments (17)

PDX is a very provincial town - in the sense of being small and clueless. The town keeps a stiff upper lip when things hit the fan, but don't do anything meaningful to fix the problems when they appear.

Bad things like girl turning up dead is only going to increase. Sadly, we need to get used to it.

I think you go a little overboard here. There are certainly troubles with the police department, especially (in my view) under the command of Chief Kroeker. They are definitely having some community interrelation issues. But I think you do us a disservice by suggesting the city is an unsafe cesspit of crime, when that's really not the case. Portland's crime rate is very comparable to other cities of its size and makeup, and--like everywhere--has dropped over the last decade, in some areas signficantly (property crimes off 21% in 10 years; personal crimes down 53%). I'm sorry you don't feel safe even during the day; you are in a minority that is as small as 3% of the population, depending on where you live.

The City is working hard to create outcome-based reporting for what goes on in Portland. Do you know about the Service Efforts and Accomplishments annual report? It's a good read.

Public safety starts on page 7.

I'm no cop apologist, and I see the problems. But I've lived other places, and comparatively speaking Portland is a very safe, very well run city.

(PS--It may seem in comments like I'm starting to pick on you, Jack. I don't mean to be so uniformly contrary; you've just picked a couple of issues I feel strongly about lately).


Not much has been said about the situation so who knows what happened. Even the best cops in the world can't stop every murder. I think I need to hear a bit more about the circumstances in this particular situation before I can make the judgements you have. That's just me.

Downtown Portland dangerous? That is going overboard. While the Portland police has had a lot of problems, there are hardly any neighborhoods, especially not downtown, that I would be afraid to walk around in, even at night. I have lived in several other cities where things were much, much, much worse.

Never mind. You're right. There's a wonderful, safe atmosphere downtown.

And since it's not as scary as Detroit, it must be that the cops are doing a great job.

I don't think you can blame Vera for bad behavior/management of the police. It was Kroeker.

Downtown does not feel dangerous to me at all. There are some sketchy folk, but it seems safer than anywhere else I've lived, and the next largest city was only 60k.

I have to figure that, relatively speaking, Portland must be a pretty safe place. I cannot imagine what would happen if the Police Departments in Newark were to close at 6 o'clock.


Have you lived anywhere else? Do you really think Portland is dangerous downtown during the day? Do you expect the mayor to be patrolling underage dance clubs on Friday nights? Have you gotten a distemper shot lately?

Overall, very few stranger-related murders occur here in Portland. That makes me feel safer. Now, if I could just do something about those shifty friends of mine....

I'm no fan of Vera's (just let loose a bit on Pablo's site about this very issue), but I think the jury is still out here as to exactly what happened with this young girl.

She apparently left the bar without her coat, her purse, and without telling even one friend that she was heading out for a bit. Was that a smart move on her part? Um, no. Are we presuming that she left the bar against her free will? Not that I've heard.

Does that mean she should have been killed? Of course not. But we don't know what did happen yet, or who, if anyone, might be to blame.

You have an extraordinarily high degree of idealism when it comes to police performance in my opinion, Jack. I like idealism, so I agree with you that the police department needs work. But as both a Portland native and someone who has spent a long time away, I've gotta say the amount of bitching Portlanders do about their city and city government is CRAZY. The big government scandal is a bad water software system and 3 housing inspectors ripping people off. This city runs as much like a Swiss timepiece as any I've been to in the US, and better than a few I've been to in Europe. Even Swiss watches break now and again.

The stuff you're linking to is definitely disturbing. But asking the police to snuff out the criminal mind is asking a lot.

Look on the bright side--at least we know cops aren't sitting around the station on weekends!

Thanks for the dialogue,

Have you gotten a distemper shot lately?

For that, my smart-mouthed little friend, you are banned. Have a nice life.

The question, folks, is whether the head of the police bureau, the mayor, has her priorities straight.

And the answer is no.

Which will change in two months. It seems pointless to rant about something (Vera) in which there is no possibility for change (she is not running again) and without any attempt at learning from the past (what do you want in the next mayor that you did not have in Vera?).

I think it is more than just not having their priorities straight, I think they never really thought far enough ahead to have priorities. No planning or true business-style management to speak of. I think she did some good things but overall was a failure. I also agree the police dept. isn't run very well, but they are under funded and are up against a bad economy which often drives crime rates up. If we could refrain from policing the entire world, we might make a dent in these problems.

Okay, I'll play. I want (from the next mayor) someone who is satisfied with grappling with the nuts n' bolts issues of running the city. This would be instead of spending most of her time (and huge amounts of treasure provided by, among others, _me_) on playing "Sim City" and building expensive moneypits (I mean, showpieces) she can brag about to her peers at mayoral barbeques.

Hmmm . . . Frank Ivancie?


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Wretched civic failure:

» Drifting through the ether from karmaville
A short list of things I meant to post on but didn't. A rebuttal to Jack's 'Portland is dangerous' post. A proposal on the issue of marriage. A dream in which I died. The hell of methotrexate withdrawl. The beauty [Read More]


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