By Midge Pierce
In the face of protests, car thefts, Next Door burglary reports, public drug use, “sharps” (preferred word for needles) on streets and playgrounds and a general rise in police calls, it seems counter-intuitive that crime is down.
East Precinct Commander Tashia Hager told the South Tabor Neighborhood Association that only reported crime is down, not actual crime.
Another consequence of Portland’s extreme shortage of resources and officers is lack of data on how much lawlessness is actually happening around town.
Hager says anticipated retirements will leave twenty-five percent of Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) 1004 positions unfilled by next August.
Currently, the force is down thirteen percent with some 130 officer needs unmet.
Recruitment challenges are compounded by competition for officers from other towns and criticism of the bureau from both left and right.
These are confusing times for PPB. As the bureau’s role shifts with political winds, the force comes under attack for being either too hardline or too soft.
Plus, the severity of the policing shortage means the likelihood of an officer responding quickly to anything but a 911 call is slim.
“Exercise patience with us,” pleads Hager. Emergency calls are the priority. Most others can be reported online or to One Point of Contact at pdxreporter.org.
Those expecting police crime prevention will be disappointed.
Recently, Community Safety measures that were once handled by the former Office of Neighborhood Involvement are going begging. With its rebranding as Civic Life (OCCL) confusion has arisen about who is responsible for what.
Of concern to Hager is the inordinate time officers spend addressing the houseless situation when there is little they can do that is effective.
“Houselessness is the symptom, not the problem. If we just deal with the symptom, we’ll never make progress, says Hager.
After PPB staffing hits rock bottom next summer, she is hopeful the numbers will start to improve slowly as new recruits become ready.
“It takes eighteen months to grow an officer,” she says.