Day after day, the Portland City Council is hearing tragic stories as gun violence continues to devastate our community. Earlier this week, the FBI released data confirming that gun violence is skyrocketing nationwide and Portland is no exception. The Portland City Council has acted - including a historic investment in community-based organizations that interrupt violence and address upstream solutions - but more urgent action is needed.
As the office of Commissioner Hardesty seeks expanded data from PPB on exactly where shootings are occurring to understand patterns and hot spots, it’s become clear that there is a specific part of the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood that is witnessing a high volume of shootings.
Community members in this neighborhood observed that high-speed traffic from gun violence incidents further threatens public safety. As the Commissioner overseeing the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), which handles traffic safety issues, Commissioner Hardesty's staff worked with PBOT experts and residents to explore options for how the deployment of temporary traffic control devices could help discourage or mitigate the effects of gun violence.
Local resident Nadine Salama described the collaboration, saying “In early August, a group of concerned neighbors reached out to Commissioner Hardesty's office to seek help and guidance regarding the sudden uptick of violence in our neighborhood. Since then, we have been working with the Commissioner's office on solutions that would yield equitable long-term results and not further endanger our community's most vulnerable. Using all of their resources, the Commissioner's office responded to our pleas swiftly and exceptionally quickly. In fact, within just one week of our request to address reckless driving & gun violence, some of our most affected streets are now limited to local access only.”
“The increase in gun violence we are seeing nationwide and here in Portland is due to a complex array of issues, and there is no one simple solution,” said Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “This is an all-hands-on deck situation where government needs to dig deep, think creatively, and directly engage community members to develop shared solutions that improve community safety. From police to community-based organizations to infrastructure design – we all have a role to play in this emergency. I’m directing PBOT to be more active and engaged in holistic solutions to community safety that can supplement police and other bureaus' roles in this effort.”
The Office of Management & Finance (OMF) Division of Community Safety has also been a part of this joint effort. “I applaud the collaboration between City bureaus and community members in the area as we seek to come together as a City to directly engage with Portlanders and find solutions to the gun violence crisis,” said Community Safety Transition Director Mike Myers.
“This is an experimental pilot, as we engage in a multidisciplinary approach to community safety,” continued Commissioner Hardesty. "We are trying something new that we can learn from. I hope this can be a part of the citywide effort to rethink community safety and to show how bureaus working together with community can lead to innovative approaches that could help mitigate gun violence. Amongst the frustration I am hearing from Portlanders is an ask to engage with those living near gun violence hotspots more directly, to collaborate around their ideas for improving safety in their neighborhood. The hope is that through traffic changes and directly collaborating with neighbors and local businesses, we can slow down activity at these gun violence hot spots and make it more difficult to commit a crime and get away with it.”
Community leaders in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood have highlighted the problem of vehicles speeding on residential streets in the aftermath of recent shootings in the area. To help address this problem, PBOT will install 8 temporary traffic barrels within a 6-block area north of SE Woodstock & 72nd Ave during Phase 1 of this pilot project. The initial installation will take place on Friday, October 1st. Next week will begin Phase 2, where PBOT will install 18 additional temporary traffic barrels. After evaluating the outcomes of phase 1 & 2, additional action may be taken.
“I understand that there are neighborhoods all over Portland that would like to see this kind of close collaboration” said Commissioner Hardesty. “At this moment, neither PBOT nor my office have the resources or capacity to pull that off, but if this pilot is successful, it will inform a budget proposal to allow more of this action moving forward.”
Local resident Nadine Salama concluded that, “Knowing we are being supported and protected by Commissioner Hardesty's office and seeing tangible results so quickly has undoubtedly given many of us a sense of relief and hope that things can turn around. We hope that our community becomes a blueprint for measured responses and equitable solutions to gun violence."
Source: Portland Bureau of Transportation