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Updated — Citizen bike patrol coming for I-5 Delta Park area

Posted by on May 10th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Detail of map showing one of the
paths through Delta Park near I-5.

The City of Portland plans to start up a citizen bike patrol to work the paths around Delta Park and Interstate 5 in North Portland.

According to an announcement for the upcoming training event that happens Tuesday (5/11), members of the new patrol would, “gather periodically and ride this area and report any illegal or suspicious activity to the Portland Police Bureau.”

City Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Wells is behind the new bike patrol. The program will be based on the City’s existing foot patrol program, the most successful of which is the Mt. Tabor Park Foot Patrol that has 27 active volunteer members who patrols the park, educates parks users, picks up litter and reports illegal activity.

The Office of Neighborhood Involvement will host the new group. To my knowledge, this will be Portland’s first ever bike patrol.

I was particularly interested to hear about this news given that I advocated strongly for the creation of citizen bike patrols three years ago. Calling them “bike beats” I went so far as gauging public interest — a step ONI asked me to take before they moved forward.

Glad to see this become a reality. Bike patrols make so much sense.

I’ve asked Wells whether or not specific safety concerns spurred him to create a patrol in this area. I’ll update the story once I hear back.

UPDATE: In response to the previous question, Mr. Wells writes the following:

“A group of bike commuters contacted me several months ago with safety concerns for this bike path and in particular, the underground tunnel just north of Delta Park on the east side of I-5. There were chronic transients sleeping there, blocking the pathway with shopping carts, and occasionally yelling and intimidating bikers. Some of the users were fearful for their safety and stopped using the path to commute.”

“We had a meeting at the location and met with ODOT folks and a group of riders. ODOT had already posted rules on the walls and is still working with the City to put in place a trespass order to allow police to more easily order unauthorized users to leave the area, discourage loitering, and address the chronic sleeping and drug and alcohol use.”

“Although Portland Police are very diligent at checking this area, we are working in concert with the district Officers on this project, a request was made to put together a bike patrol similar to our foot patrols.”

If you’re interested in joining this bike patrol, here are the details of the initial training session.

    Bike Patrol Training
    Tuesday, May 11th
    Kenton Historic Firehouse (2209 N. Schofield St.)
    7:00pm – 9:00pm

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Ruckus Components
Guest

I have the name for the new group.

Cyclists On Patrol –> COPs

Roma
Guest
Roma

Do you get to wear a red beret?

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Does anyone know how often the Springwater gets patrolled, by cops or any other unofficial group?

This last weekend I saw a guy sitting on the side of the path smoking something out of a clear pop bottle (ugh, I hate to think of what all those chemicals are doing to his lungs, but I doubt he is in a place to care). I also passed several large piles of clothes and assorted junk at several parts of the trail, as well as some random crazy looking people “wondering” along the path.

felix
Guest
felix

get the citizens to watch and report on each other. Didn’t someone already try this in the 30s and 40s?

bikesalot
Guest
bikesalot

While they are patrolling, they had better watch out for the long crack running in the direction of travel where you cross from Hayden Island to Delta Park, not far from Hooters. I was staring down a big thunderstorm cell I was about to hit and didn’t notice the crack. It grabbed my front wheel and threw me into the concrete divider. Luckily my fairing took the bulk of the impact. Also luckily, I had not yet mounted up my new fairing.

That crack is dangerous and should be fixed.

(Yes, I did get wet right after that.)

cruiser
Guest
cruiser

I’ve been riding through here routinely for the past year, and have never seen anything worth reporting except for a guy doing cookies at the end of the cul-de-sac one time – an isolated incident that hardly warrants any kind of systematic response. There are plenty of homeless guys who walk/ride/push shopping carts up and down the I-5 path, but in my experience they keep to themselves and are generally polite in terms of sharing the path, so any patrol that targeted them in any fashion would strike me as mean-spirited. In fact, the biggest issue I can identify here is the occasional squad car that drives up the I-5 path, forcing bikes to squeeze to the side as it passes. So I have to wonder…what’s the point of this? I’m sure we’re talking about a pretty inexpensive program here, but I’d still like to see the anticipated benefits laid out a little more thoroughly, and if the only upshot of the whole thing is that cops end up driving on the path more often, I’m pretty sure I’d rather not have the added “security.”

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

For you cynics (felix and cruiser), there’s plenty of precedent for this to be a good thing. It’s not just about crime; as Jonathan points out, “the program will be based on […] the Mt. Tabor Park Foot Patrol […] who patrols the park, educates parks users, picks up litter and reports illegal activity.”

It’s awfully rude to assume that the people volunteering for this are doing so to get their kicks as a narc or to persecute homeless people. Ask anyone who’s been involved in efforts like this before and they’ll probably tell you most of their time was spent keeping the place clean, keeping notes on maintenance needs, chatting with neighbors, giving directions, and helping to fix the occasional flat tire.

We need more of this! How about starting a citizen patrol for the I-205 path?

ds
Guest
ds

I have to agree with cruiser in comment #6 that I’m not sure what they’re looking for. I ride through this area several times a week and other than the fact that sometimes there are people loitering in the underpass which is on a blind curve, I haven’t seen anything to warrant concern. It would be nice if there were never people sitting on the path in that underpass, but it’s not so bothersome that I think it merits a full time patrol. You just have to take the blind curve through the underpass slowly, which is probably a good idea anyway since there’s frequently loose sand on the path and oncoming bicycle traffic.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

So there’s a large need to educate the users of the path about how to use the path?

There’s a large need to collect the trash left on the path?

matt picio
Guest

Elliot (#7) – There’s a distinct lack of civic involvement in modern America, and I feel that groups like this fill some of that large gap – when they confine themselves to helping others and reporting legitimate crime, they are a boon to society.

Unfortunately, there is a fine line between Civic Responsibility and Getting into Everyone’s Business, and groups like this sometimes cross that line, reporting on activities which are not illegal, or on activities which may be technically illegal but many consider shouldn’t be. in those cases, the cynics have good reason to be cynical, and the group ultimately harms the community it pledged to protect.

cruiser raises some good points, and as has been pointed out many times on this site and on the Shift list, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a criminal, the homeless, and reclusive billionaires. If these people are going to report “sketchy” behavior instead of actual crime, then I sympathize with felix and cruiser.

gus
Guest
gus

“it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a criminal, the homeless, and reclusive billionaires”

pure genius.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

Good idea, I admit the area can be a bit dark and scary.

The area is a great night bike ride and I have been though hundreds of time going between Vancouver and Portland. My only issues have been with potholes and spandex wearing speed racers going the wrong way on the I-5 bridge.

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Matt, I understand your point and I agree that these groups shouldn’t “cross the line” on reporting activities, but my point was that we shouldn’t be judging these folks before they even start. Reading the article again, I see why you and other folks are concerned about an emphasis on monitoring “suspicious activity”, but I would guess that’s just a fossil from being partially organized by the police bureau. The article mentions they’re also being sponsored by the Office of Neighborhood Involvment – hardly a fascist institution.

I highly doubt this citizen bike patrol is going to go around acting like Minutemen. Can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt? Think of how discouraging it would be to start a volunteer group to improve a community asset, just to have people assume you’re going to be nosy and jackbooted.

cruiser
Guest
cruiser

Elliot,

Nobody is judging those who may take part in this effort. Most of the concerns raised (mine included) have revolved around whether the effort itself is necessary and appropriate, not whether any potential volunteers would have good intentions or not – I think most would agree that the intentions, at least, are good. It seems like you’re reading these comments through the filter of your own concerns and opinions, rather than how they were intended. I, for one, am not interested in whether the organizing party is the Police or the Girl Scouts or the Communist Party of America; I am interested in what problems this program is designed to address, how effectively it will address said problems, and whether there is any potential for negative outcomes. The answers to these questions remain unclear to me from the information I have seen.

Skepticism =/= Cynicism

Member

Please see the update just added to the end of this article. It is further elaboration from the City’s Crime Prevention Coordinator, Mark Wells about what prompted the patrol idea. Thanks for reading and participating in the conversation.

cruiser
Guest
cruiser

Argh. This most recent update confirms that the homeless people are in fact the targets of this effort. Perhaps other cyclists have experienced something I haven’t, but I’ve never seen anything like shopping carts obstructing the path, I’ve never been yelled at or harassed, and I’ve certainly never felt unsafe. On the contrary, I’m often greeted with a nod by many of these men as I pass through.

If people really have been put in bad situations on this path, I certainly wouldn’t want to undermine their efforts to create a safe environment. Does anybody know of any incidents that happened here? I don’t want to cast unfounded judgments on those who do feel unsafe, but given my own experiences, I can’t help wondering if it is the mere presence of the homeless that has prompted this action, rather than any legitimate threat to public safety.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Being homeless is not a crime

Rollerblader
Guest
Rollerblader

As a proud rollerblader, I like this a lot, though it could open a can of worms. Let us wheeled-beings live as one.

Charley
Guest
Charley

I’ve been yelled at up there. One homeless guy called me a faggot and told me I shouldn’t be wearing lycra. So, how many women ride over than bridge daily? How many children? Why do you think it’s mostly “speed racers” and tweakers up there? An unwelcoming environment, that’s why. This patrol might help.

esther
Guest
esther

I ride that route occasionally and have never encountered any unpleasantness. Usually I exchange pleasantries with the homeless people I see there. They always seem to be a rather oddly happy crowd due to the abundance of cans around for them to cash in. I’ve never seen people sleeping under the underpass. I don’t commute though and wonder if maybe they don’t overnight under there and move out by the time I get there.

All I can say if you are intimidated by the people on the bike route please stay off the Max train. You will be terrified.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

I absolutely will not go through the tunnel. It is not safe especially as a single female rider. I contacted several officals back in early 2000 after being threated by homeless folks in the tunnel. There were 3 of us & several of them. Tried to take us off our bikes & shouted for us to get out of their home.
They didn’t have lights in there & after my incident took steps to have them installed.
Appears not much has changed in 10 yrs.

Michael M.
Guest

Wow, so “sleeping” is a crime now (only, of course, if you have no money and no home to sleep in), and bike patrols will help enforce this heinous offence.

This has the potential to be appalling. I hope it won’t be.

Barbara’s (#21) comment brings to mind how loudly we complain when all people on bikes are condemned for the actions of a few. Despite that, it’s apparently okay to condemn all people experiencing homelessness because of the actions of a few. And persecute them accordingly.

The solution isn’t persecution, it is housing. And treatment and health care, especially mental health care, which currently we administer ineffectively and expensively in our prison system.

cruiser
Guest
cruiser

Barbara,

Your experience sounds horrible, but I have to note that it was 10 years ago, and not another person on this message board has related anything like what you describe – unless Charley being called a faggot counts, but while that’s definitely uncomfortable, it’s a far cry from assault. Your conclusion that things haven’t changed seems pretty baseless. Given that being a transient generally involves NOT having a stable place to sleep for a decade, I’d also venture to guess that the individuals involved in your incident are not the same ones that are there now. Let’s not jump all over them just because they happen to look the same.

Michael M. is correct – housing and treatment are the appropriate answers here, but until we manage to build such an enlightened state, proximity to the homeless is a price we pay for living in the city. When they pose a legitimate threat to public safety, that should be dealt with. But making people uncomfortable – even if deliberately so, as in Charley’s case – is not a threat to public safety.

Ed
Guest
Ed

The first time I went over the bridge and was completely lost, a man who appeared to be homeless is the one who gave me directions, at the tunnel.

I think we should encourage them to stay there until ODOT improves the signage.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I agree with Elliot #7 that no matter the reason behind it litter patrol, education, and reporting are not bad…

but as stated we all hope that the homeless won’t be reported simply for being there and not causing issues…

the springwater trail desperately needs a patrol…

the I-205 path I’ve never had any issues on…

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

I know that once upon a time there was a much larger problem in the area, back when the ODOT building next door had a public restroom out front. It’s been gone for like 4 years now.

I’ve been riding through the tunnel twice a day for three years now.

Occasionally there is broken glass.

Occasionally there is someone sleeping.

Every once in a while there is someone discreetly drinking.

I’ve never been yelled at or anything, and I’m all spandexed out.

But hey, if folks want to patrol the tunnel, more power to them. If telling people sleeping in a tunnel to go sleep in the rain gets you off… just make sure to swep up the glass. Thx

matt picio
Guest

cruiser (#14) – exactly, well said.

Elliot – my comments are meant as general comments to illustrate that sometimes these well-meaning groups can go awry. I think that asking some questions beforehand and talking about concerns before implementation rather than afterwards is not only warranted, but ultimately helpful to the process.

Skepticism, discord, and differences of opinion aren’t just normal, they’re healthy – it’s when differences are polarized into opposites and no one is willing to meet somewhere in the middle that disagreements become serious problems.

solid gold
Guest
solid gold

yeah! get those unsightly homeless out of here! it’s their fault for being so poor in Ecotopia! why don’t they just go east of 82nd, where the poor belong!

beth h
Guest

I also read the statement and I agree that this does appear to be an attempt to somehow “deal” with the issue of homelessness in general, and homeless people camping out in that area in particular.

I totally empathize with Barbara, having had a couple of my own terrifying experiences with homeless people who were angray AND altered, a dangerous combination to encounter on a ride home.

Since governments and businesses are obviously not going to “solve” the problems of poverty, edication, mental illness and substance abuse (which can all lead to homelessness), unless each housed person takes it upon themselves to be responsible for housing one homeless person, we will continue to “deal” with the issue as if it’s a series of little fires that need to be put out.

I think some kind of monitoring may be in order, but monitoring without follow-up won’t really “solve” anything.

So this all begs the question — are “Citizen Patrols” — especially ones assigned to an area where there aren’t a lot of established residences to begin with — simply a way for the Police to get some free help? Or are they actually serving another purpose, and if so, what would that be?

BURR
Guest
BURR

maybe the reall problem is with the design of the tunnel.

joe adamski
Guest
joe adamski

If you look at Portland Maps for that area you will notice a very low crime report rate for that area. Below is the link to the assualt report,but play with it and you will see that the crime mostly occurs where people live, mostly east of MLK. It makes good copy to form a ‘mounted patrol’, but seems to make little sense to me. Such patrols would be more welcome in neighborhoods, by neighbors. There is sufficient vandalism and other low level crimes that would warrant such patrols rather than in the out of the ways such as Delta park area.

http://portlandmaps.com/detail.cfm?action=Assault&propertyid=R146526&state_id=1N1E03CA%20%20300&address_id=558796&intersection_id=&dynamic_point=0&x=7645681.463&y=711299.256&place=715%20N%20HAYDEN%20MEADOWS%20DR&city=PORTLAND&neighborhood=EAST%20COLUMBIA&seg_id=101349

John Russell (jr98664)
Guest

Once while cycling on on the bike path next to I-5 under MLK, a homeless man came a bit to close to comfort when he asked me if he could give me a handjob. I’m really hoping this was an isolated incident, but regardless, I’ve never been a fan of the area. I hope this will help with things like that, otherwise I’d be more than comfortable cycling on I-5 if it meant avoiding that area.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

Once while walking downtown a non homeless (regular?) guy asked me if I wanted to go smoke crack in his apartment and have sex. (I don’t blame him, I’m really sexy.)

We would never patrol downtown on the lookout for regular looking people though… just because of what they might do. Nor would we patrol 122nd in search of motorists who might call charlie “faggot.” How could you tell who will and who won’t?

So how can you tell which homeless folks are potentially going to do something inappropriate? You can’t really… so we’ll harass them all?

I think the police response here is great. “We already harass these folks plenty… they are living at the very edge of town away from where most people live… so if you want them harassed extra do it yourself.”

k.
Guest
k.

Do I get to club transients?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

http://www.kptv.com/community/23528600/detail.html

A quote from the above article.

“Anybody that might be looking to cause problems in the area is probably going to move on because we’re showing ourselves and we’re showing that we’re not just going to roll over and let them have the area,” said Jimmy Candelaria, a bike patrol organizer

Considering the low level of crime in the area, the only way you can look at this is that they plan to roust the homeless.

Roma
Guest
Roma

“a homeless man came a bit to close to comfort when he asked me if he could give me a handjob…”

Do you think you could provide precise directions to this helpful gentleman?

BURR
Guest
BURR

What we really need is a lot more grafitti and flyers on telephone poles to keep these nosy do-gooders busy.

AF
Guest
AF

i agree with burr. let’s focus our attention elsewhere. and the handjob comment? just offensive.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

I can just see a bunch of frustrated former Eagle Scouts and wannabe paramilitary types “riding to the rescue” of the rest of us to save us from an unsavory encounter with a poor, down on his/her luck homeless person.

Um. No thanks.

ds
Guest
ds

As a single woman who rides through this tunnel about two roundtrips a week, usually after dark (as late as 10PM or so) I still worry more about accidental collisions than aggressive threats. There are people in the underpass maybe half the time, usually earlier in the evening. In the two years I’ve been riding through there only one person has done anything that seemed even vaguely aggressive, and he just made sort of “watching you” gesture that annoyed me a little. I was more bothered by the fact he was part of a group of about half a dozen people who appeared to be playing a game of some sort in the middle of the blind curve on the path than by the gesture. I don’t mind people being in the underpass, just blocking the path. I’d say I understand it’s a dry spot out of the rain, except they never seem to be there when it’s raining.
I still think there’s a high probability of a collision when people are on the path down there.

trail user
Guest
trail user

The minute when one of these vigilantes goes overboard…

Oliver Smith
Guest
Oliver Smith

Having volunteered with the Mt. Tabor Foot Patrol, I can say that they are a great group of people and their work is valuable.

A similar group at Delta Park would undoubtedly be a good thing. The Friends of Mt Tabor website accurately describes what they’re up to:
“The foot patrol, formed in calendar year 2000, is composed of volunteers who periodically walk in Mt Tabor Park to observe, record and report such things as theft, vandalism, graffiti, improperly secured facilities, lost and/or found items, provide first aid, assist lost or disoriented individuals, and pick up litter while on patrol.

“The goal is to help keep the park clean, safe and secure as a real gem of the neighborhood. Our success in this process can be noted by the several awards and recognition received by the group. These include awards from the Oregon Crime Prevention Association, the Portland Police Bureau, the Park Bureau and recognition by many as the outstanding and model foot patrol organization in the city of Portland.”

Check out their video at http://www.taborfriends.com/

cruiser
Guest
cruiser

Oliver,

The mere fact that this group is modeled on the Mt. Tabor Foot Patrol does not mean they are the same thing. Read Mark Wells’ comments in the updated section of the post. By his own admission, the purpose of this patrol is to monitor the homeless and facilitate their eviction from the area, rather than any of functions of the Mt. Tabor group that you describe. So, though the model may be the same, the objective is not. The two do not appear to be similar in spirit or purpose.

Anton
Guest
Anton

@Roma #2. I was thinking of Curtis and Lisa Sliwa too. Are you a former NYer?

BURR
Guest
BURR

cruiser #43 – I’m sure keeping the homeless out of Mt. Tabor park is at the top of their list of priorities, even though they obfuscate this in their mission statement.

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

Let’s take bath our paths from worthless bums.

Paul in the Couve
Guest
Paul in the Couve

I cycle through the area several times each week and often at night as late as Midnight. I haven’t had any problems other than under the overpass on the blind curve. I rarely see anyone who causes me concern after dark.

However, the isolation of the area often does cause me to worry a little. If anything were to come up, I’m very isolated from any help. Most days it never crosses my mind, but on occasion I think of that.

I would oppose any patrol that is designed to harass the homeless. On the other had, I’d like to know that the community was monitoring the area for signs of problems rather than waiting until something happens.

jim
Guest
jim

I dont think there is much problem with the homeless people in the area. Around the EXPO center there has been a problem for quite some time with illegal aliens hiding in the bushes and breaking into cars during events. some patrols around that area during events would probably helpout.

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Looking over the comments so far, I think it’s well documented that there are issues existing on the path that could be addressed with the proposed bike patrol. Look how the issues identified in people’s comments line up with the mission of the Mt. Tabor Foot Patrol, which Jonathan reports the group will be based on:

“Record and report theft, vandalism, graffiti [other crime]”

#6 drug use
#19 verbal assault
#21 harrassment, attempted assault

“[Record and report] improperly secured facilities, lost and/or found items, [identify maintenance needs]”

#5 pavement crack issue
#8 blind curve safety issue
#12 potholes
#12 dark (lighting issues)
#30 tunnel design safety issues

“Provide first aid, assist lost or disoriented individuals”

#12 wrong way riding
#24 needed directions
#40 blocking the path (at an area with a potential for a collision)

“Pick up litter”

#8 loose sand on the path (dangerous on a curve)
#26 broken glass

These issues may not be pervasive, but they hardly seem to be “isolated incidents” as some people have suggested. It also sounds like a number of people are somewhat hesitant to ride in areas where these issues exist, or, even though to continue to use the facility, are concerned that an incident may eventually occur if the issues aren’t addressed. It looks to me that there could be a great benefit from the creation of this group.

Since we haven’t heard yet from any of the people will be directly participating in the effort, I’m disappointed that people continue to cast aspersions on the patrol’s intentions, despite their clearly stated purpose. For those who seem to be convinced that the only outcome of this patrol will be the persecution of homeless, I’d suggest that best way get reassurance that won’t happen is to join and participate yourselves, and stop accusing people of offenses they haven’t even conceived of committing yet.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

Elliot, maybe you missed #35

We have a quote from the patrol organizer via Fox.

“Anybody that might be looking to cause problems in the area is probably going to move on because we’re showing ourselves and we’re showing that we’re not just going to roll over and let them have the area,” said Jimmy Candelaria, a bike patrol organizer.

That seems to pretty concretely lay out the organizer’s intentions… no?

What other troublemakers are taking over the area? What other group of people do you simply coerce to “move on?”