|Portland Neighborhood Crime Prevention Program: a turbulent history
From first to last, people have had competing agendas for the program
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
The Neighborhood Crime Prevention Programs history is like that of most significant movements: it has evolved over time and has been shaped by conflict.
1978: The program began as a temporary measure under an 18-month grant from the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. John Werneken was hired as the first program manager. From the first, staff were housed in neighborhood offices and hired by citizens representatives in the communities they served. Then a police Sergeant, Tom Potter served as liaison.
1979: Werneken resigns under pressure as manager of the program; critics cite insufficiently strong management. Conversely, there is a strong consensus - including both Werneken and his strongest critics - that one of the biggest shortfalls of the program is too much top-down direction on program structure. Also, with the notable exception of Potter, police personnel are leery of working with unsworn civilians.
1980: The program is incorporated into the Office of Neighborhood Associations, as it was then called, and made a permanent fixture of coalition offices. Sherry Sylvester, a southeast crime prevention coordinator, becomes the new program manager. She would later admit to spending much of her time writing poetry.
1992: Sylvester resigns and is replaced by Sharon McCormack, an inner northeast crime prevention specialist since 1979, and before that a founding member of that areas Piedmont Neighborhood Association. Among other accomplishments, she was one of the first to recognize the migration of California youth gangs into Portland, seeking softer targets for drug dealing and the like, in the late 1980s.
The program has many successes, but also issues related directly to its structure. Each coalition offers its Crime Prevention Specialists not only different challenges, but different management styles to work under and different rates of pay. As a result, there is a fairly steady migration of specialists from one office to another, as opportunities present themselves, in search of greener grass, with some ultimately serving in four different offices. Also, as agents of independent coalitions, the specialists dont always dance to the citys tune. This is particularly true of the very independent West/Northwest Coalition; arguing that crime prevention work is a lower priority, it is made a half-time position.
1997: Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury and Mayor Vera Katz propose to transfer the program to the Police Bureau, and house it in local precincts. Community leaders vehemently protest this approach, arguing that it would defeat the purpose of making the specialists accessible and responsive to the community. As a compromise, the program is kept in the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, or ONI as it is now known, and housed at the neighborhood offices, but the specialists are made city employees and made answerable to the program manager. The move is supported by most of the specialists, who gain higher pay and benefits, civil service status and job protection, and freedom from sometimes capricious direction from neighborhood association boards.
2000: Dying of cancer, McCormack names Marsha Palmer, a former southeast neighborhood volunteer who has served in the southeast, southwest and northeast offices, as her acting successor. Her daughter later reports that McCormack was fretting about the programs future until the night before her death.
2001: ONI director David Lane passes over Palmer to name Art Hendricks as program manager, the first newcomer to the program to hold this position since Werneken in 1978.
2003: Randy Leonard is given charge of ONI. With virtually no prior discussion he begins to move the enforcement arm of the Office of Development Services into neighborhood offices. He also proposes to rename the bureau the Office of Neighborhood Services, prompting some observers to wonder if he understands the purpose of the agency.
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