A blast from the past: Portland police start 'new-school' foot patrols

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Police Bureau is using "new-school" statistical analysis to send its officers out on an old-school duty: neighborhood foot patrols.

The bureau's strategy is simple: increase positive police interactions at some locations that historically have had more than their fair share of emergency calls, and hopefully cut back on crime.

"It's kind of reinventing the wheel in some ways," said Officer William Ollenbrook, as he set out on a foot patrol around North Fessenden St. in St. Johns. "We got away from it because cars allow us to cover a much bigger area with fewer police.

"But then the pendulum swings and we realize that getting out and walking around can be beneficial."

Portland police have identified 20 spots across the city that would benefit from officers being out and about. Patrols know these areas well. But often, on-duty officers have a hard time carving out time to actually hit the pavement.

That's why this program is different. Officers get calls, like they would if there was an emergency, allowing them to actually dedicate the time to getting out into the neighborhoods.

"The beauty of it actually being generated as a call is that it carves out a time for us to go do it because we're just spread so thin," said Ollenbrook, who's been a Portland police officer for 20 years. "It really makes it easier for us to get out there and do that."

Studies of Portland police databases helped pinpoint the spots to patrol. But the times officers patrol are random, so you'll never know when you might see one.

Police say just being there is already making a difference. The officers feel more visible.

"Getting out of the car and walking around, walking through businesses, shaking folks' hands on the corner, it's a great way to get to know them," said Ollenbrook. "It's just that simple."

The Neighborhood Involvement Locations cover all corners of the city. Here's a list of the 20 locations, in 25 Portland neighborhoods:

  • St. Johns - 6800 N. Fessenden St.

  • Kenton - N. Denver Ave. and Kilpatrick St.

  • Humboldt/Boise - N. Michigan Ave. and Prescott St.

  • Woodlawn/King - N.E. MLK Jr. Blvd. and Ainsworth St.

  • Cully (x2) - N.E. 72nd and Killingsworth St., & N.E. Cully and Killingsworth St.

  • Lloyd District/Eliot - N.E. Broadway and Victoria Ave.

  • Hosford-Abernethy/Creston-Kenilworth - S.E. 28th Place and Powell Blvd.

  • Pearl/Old Town/Chinatown - 800 N.W. 6th Ave.

  • Downtown - S.W. 1st Ave. and Salmon St.

  • Goose Hollow/Northwest District - W. 22nd Ave. and Burnside St.

  • Downtown - S.W. 5th Ave. and Hall St.

  • Montavilla - S.E. 82nd Ave. and Washington St.

  • Hazelwood/Glenfair - 148th Ave. and E. Burnside St.

  • Russell/Parkrose Heights - N.E. 122nd Ave. and San Rafael St.

  • Hazelwood - 13700 block of S.E. Stark St.

  • Powellhurst-Gilbert/Mill Park - S.E. 112th Ave. and Division St.

  • Lents/Foster-Powell - S.E. 82nd Ave. and Raymond St.

  • Brentwood-Darlington/Lents - S.E. 82nd Ave. and Malden St.

  • Lents - S.E. 92nd Ave. and Flavel St.

The program will run for the next five months; then Portland State University researchers will get involved. They'll examine the results, including crime stats and other evidence, and create an ongoing program to use community interaction to reduce crime.