A series of unconventional measures taken by City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to reduce gun violence in a southeast Portland neighborhood appear to be working.
“… The early results are promising.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland City Commissioner
Back in October, Hardesty and Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio reacted to pleas from people who live in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood to do something about the shootings and violence they were experiencing on the streets around SE 72nd and Woodstock. One of the actions taken as part of a pilot project was something the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) had never done before: Use traffic calming infrastructure to reduce gun violence.
Since many gun-related crimes were committed by people using cars, the thinking went, reducing speed of drivers and limiting their access to the street would reduce the ability to commit those crimes.
According to results released today of the three-month pilot project (October to December), concrete barrels and other interventions resulted in a 64% decrease in the number of verified shootings compared to the three months prior to the pilot.
Hardesty’s office also referenced results of a survey in a statement about the pilot project, saying, “Twice as many survey respondents believed the traffic intervention reduced traffic from people escaping a shooting compared to those that didn’t perceive a difference,” and that 72% of people surveyed endorsed non-traditional responses to gun violence including better public spaces.
At a walking tour of the neighborhood this morning, Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association Chair Matchu Williams (a former volunteer with Bike Loud PDX) said, “The sudden rise in gunfire and reckless driving last year shook the community and spurred on calls for safe streets where neighbors can gather together. The pilot project gives us hope for future investments into safe streets in Mt. Scott-Arleta and citywide.”
Another resident, Nadine Salama said, “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.”
PBOT installed 18 traffic barrels in a six-by-six block radius near Mt. Scott Park and community center.
Commissioner Hardesty touts the successful pilot as part of a “all hands on deck, holistic violence mitigation effort” that included Portland Parks & Recreation, the Office of Management & Finance Community Safety Division, Portland Police Bureau, and local residents.
For their part, Parks increased ranger patrols and repaired lighting in Mt. Scott Park. The PPB also increased patrols of the area. Local businesses were encouraged by the City of Portland to install security cameras.
Parks & Rec Commissioner Carmen Rubio says this experiment should serve as a model for other parts of the city. “I’m open to hearing from other parks-adjacent neighborhoods interested in similar pilot projects.”
It’s notable that Commissioner Hardesty, who’s often labeled as being anti-police, worked in partnership with the PPB on this pilot project. “In the months ahead, the Police Bureau looks forward to continued partnerships with Parks & Recreation, the Bureau of Transportation, and any other City Bureau that has innovative ideas on how to improve community safety,” said Deputy Chief of Police Mike Frome in a statement from Hardesty’s office.
Commissioner Hardesty is clearly excited about this pilot but also issued a note of caution. “We have not implemented this pilot for long enough to determine this a success, but the early results are promising.”
Also shared today was a potential design for changes to the SE 72nd and Woodstock “Arleta Triangle” intersection that currently has a large and dangerous slip-lane. Many residents want PBOT to close the slip lane permanently and install concrete planters to create plaza space.
Hardesty says next steps could include seeking City Council approval for a staff position to expand the pilot project, upgrading the plastic barrels to concrete, speed reader signs on 72nd Avenue, and more.
If you’d like to learn more about this effort, Hardesty will host a live discussion on her Facebook page today (Tuesday March 1st) at 5:00 pm.