St. Johns community call for city, county leader and law enforcement to help with crime

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:18 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The St. Johns business community is calling for action from city and county leaders and law enforcement saying they need to protect the historic district from a rise in crime.

On Wednesday, community leaders held a listening session for business owners and residents to speak about problems they’ve been experiencing the last few years.

“I have been broken into basically every way that you can imagine,” said James Armstrong, owner of Cathedral Eye Care. “Smash and grab through the windows and take all the inventory, financial records taken and I’ve had to change all the bank accounts. I’ve had doors broken for the sake of breaking a door.”

The room was packed as many shares stories and concerns about crime, vandalism, and mental health challenges their neighborhood is facing.

According to the St. Johns Boosters, several area businesses have reported being hit multiple times, with over $660,000 in damages combined.

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“Starting the day after Christmas last year to the day after Christmas this year, my business has been broken into six times,” said Anna Romano, owner of RoM. “That’s a lot. I’ve talked to people who’ve owned businesses for 20 years and they say getting broken into six times in 20 years is a lot. It’s been pretty frustrating.”

St. Johns Boosters created a roadmap for a number of actions they’re demanding the Portland and Multnomah County attend to with several safety, cleanliness, and accessibility goals hoping to be accomplished in 90 days or in the next 4 to 12 months.

“We understand there are many reasons that Portland has gotten to where it is today,” said Tanya Hartnett, Venture Portland’s District Manager for St. Johns. “We are not expecting a silver bullet to solve our problems. However, we do need our leaders to see how hard the small business community in St. Johns is working to survive, and if something does not change, there are many businesses that will not. Today is the start of what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue with the City and County of how to meet these goals and how to get to a better place.”

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The St. Johns Boosters 90-day reset plan:

Safety Vision: All residents, workers and visitors can live, work and play without fear for their personal safety.

Safety Goals (90-day):

  • Person-on-person crime stats down by 40%.
  • Property crime stats down 50%.
  • Society crime stats down by 50%.
  • At least 1 Portland Police officer patrolling St. Johns’ business district during business hours.
  • At least 1 – 2 Portland Police patrols operating during the night from N. Burr to St. Louis along Lombard, with patrol cars driving throughout the district, including resident streets.
  • Launch a pilot program in St. Johns for a security firm funded by City of Portland.
  • Portland Police officers know the name of at least one person at each business or residence. Business owners and nonprofits know the name and number of at least one PPB officer in the St. Johns business district.
  • Multnomah County to implement mental health response teams including one mental health
  • professional patrolling the St. Johns business district to address mental health issues on the
  • street.
  • Coordinate a direct number to the Portland Fire Department St. Johns fire station for more
  • immediate response to daily fires.
  • Funding for additional lighting (e.g., streetlamps or outside business lights) in St. Johns on Lombard from N Richmond to N. Burr.

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Safety Goals (4-12 months):

  • Calls to 911 are answered within 15 seconds.
  • Police response within 7 minutes to all emergency calls.
  • Portland Police Bureau and private security partners work collaboratively to improve St. Johns public safety response and to increase police patrols in the district.
  • Multnomah County to locate District Attorney office in St. Johns.

Cleanliness and Building Vision: Our streets and infrastructure are pristine and our buildings are vibrant with public art and storefront activation.

Cleanliness and Building Goals (90-day):

  • Trash pick-up increased to daily pick-up for all public trash bins.
  • PBOT/City of Portland to clean debris* left behind by homeless individuals
  • in businesses doorways, the Plaza, sidewalks and bioswales daily.
  • Untagged and/or abandoned vehicles are removed from public parking areas, and/or areas where vehicles are not legally permitted to park within 24 hours.

*Debris: To include garbage, abandoned shopping carts, pallets, etc

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Cleanliness and Building Goals (4-12 months):

  • City of Portland to hold property /building owners accountable for affordable leasing rates to attract and keep businesses in the St. Johns business district.
  • Buildings are kept in good repair, with fresh paint, repairs and active storefronts, and property/building owners receive notification per city code for buildings in disrepair.
  • City of Portland to hold property/ building owners accountable for upkeep and repairs of existing businesses and empty buildings.
  • All public art is intentional and approved by property owner, and unapproved public art is removed within 3 business days.
  • All City owned infrastructure is proactively maintained, including lampposts, street signs and streets.
  • PBOT to provide regular and ongoing sweeping/ cleaning and leaf removal on streets and sidewalks.
  • City of Portland to maintain street trees and Plaza trees.

Accessibility Vision: Our sidewalks are accessible for all people to freely navigate, and our neighborhood is easily navigated and accessible using public streets.

Accessibility Goals (90-day):

  • Unauthorized tents, RV campers and camped vehicles count down by 33%.
  • All sidewalks have 60 inches of walkway clearance for ADA accessibility.
  • City of Portland to regularly patrol St. Johns’ streets for unsanctioned camping and RV parking.
  • Accessibility Goals (4-12 months):
  • No obstructions on sidewalks.
  • All sidewalks are ADA accessible with 60 inches of access for the walkway and exiting vehicles from parking spaces.
  • All curb cuts are properly sloped at intersections.
  • Create an alternative place for RVs & camping so individuals do not switch streets after a sweep.
  • Wayfinding signs indicate how to enter St. Johns
  • All PBOT changes to access or streets in St. Johns will require a presentation and support by the Boosters before implementation.