“I would hope [the Portland Police Bureau] would reconstitute their traffic division and focus those resources in high crash corridors.”
— Mike Reese, Multnomah County Sheriff
Multnomah County Sheriff (and former Portland Police Bureau Chief) Mike Reese issued an open letter to the community on Friday that said he is “Deeply concerned about current trends in community violence.” Among the five actions he thinks will help stem tide is a greater focus on traffic enforcement.
Reese’s letter outlined a near 30-year high in the number of jail bookings for murder-related charges and other serious crimes. He also mentioned the historically high number of traffic-related fatalities.
“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Sheriff Reese wrote. “Summer is approaching, a time when we typically experience increased violence in our community… Without action, we can expect worse to come.”
When it comes to making streets safer, here’s what Reese wants to do:
Engage in focused traffic enforcement in high crash corridors to reduce reckless and impaired driving. Base the deployment strategy on time-of-day and day-of-the-week when traffic fatalities and gun violence are most likely to occur and overlap.
Reached on the phone for comment this morning, Reese said the County has about 100 deputy sheriffs on duty, a number dwarfed by the Portland Police Bureau’s 700 officers. But the jurisdiction and population the County patrols is also much smaller. In addition to unincorporated parts of the Portland region like Sylvan, Sauvie Island and Corbett, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has contracts to provide policing to Gresham, Troutdale, and Fairview. Their beat includes large sections of I-84 and major arterial streets like Glisan and Halsey.
While the areas in the County’s jurisdiction are much less populated, they see many of the same problems we have in Portland.
“Certainly on the traffic related enforcement, we’ve seen an uptick in traffic fatalities and reckless driving events,” Reese shared today. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage safe driving and not through just citations, through our presence by making sure that we are proactively stopping people engaged in really dangerous driving behavior. Like reckless driving and impaired or distracted driving, failing to yield to pedestrians, things that get people seriously injured.”
Reese also said he’s concerned about steps taken by PPB Chief Chuck Lovell to dismantle the Traffic Division.
“It does concern me and it does impact the entire region. Portland has such a large jurisdiction — whether it’s on public safety, community livability, transportation issues — Portland has a large footprint and a regional impact on other jurisdictions around it. It does concern those of us that work around the city of Portland, and as a person who lives in the city it deeply concerns me. The number of traffic fatalities, the reckless driving I see on streets. Portland has disbanded their traffic unit and I think that is one of the three legs of a stool that helps us have safe streets. Traffic calming devices are really important. And education is really important. And traffic enforcement in maintaining safe streets. You need all three.”
Reese said he wants the PPB to, “Reconstitute their traffic division and focus those resources in high crash corridors, particularly where you see an overlap with gun violence. So you’re going to have an added benefit by putting boots on the ground in those high crash corridors, reducing the potential for really tragic outcomes with accidents and fatalities. And you’re also going to dissuade people from engaging in gun violence.”