Freelance: In St. Johns, the volunteer Foot Patrol is resurrected and cops walk the beat, too

THE OREGONIAN May 27th, 2011

Members of the St. Johns Mainstreet Foot Patrol walk through the community’s downtown during the program’s first night.

On a rainy Thursday night in April, three volunteers with the St. Johns Mainstreet Foot Patrol clad in yellow vests — and armed only with cellphones, flashlights and a digital camera — made their way through the town center.

Crime in St. Johns has fallen steadily during the past four years, but recent events have some people feeling a sense of relapse to the years when the area was know for little other than neglect and street drinkers. The neighborhood has been hit hard by the recession, and graffiti, prostitution and vagrants have returned.

And while some signs of economic recovery are taking hold, the community’s civic pride hasn’t fully recovered from the 2008 closure of the Police Bureau’s North Precinct. Combined with a recent spate of gang shootings citywide, many simply don’t feel safe downtown at night.

So when the foot patrol volunteers made their way past bus stops and shops, they received an almost heroic welcome from the neighborhood.

Local merchant Randy Plew of Plew’s Brews on North Lombard Street wraps a volunteer in bear hug as the patrol passes.

“Thank you,” gushes 34-year-old Angela Cobb, who says she’s frequently harassed by men looking for prostitutes. “This (foot patrol) means a lot to me.”

The patrol’s impact is reaching even beyond residents and local merchants. Portland police were so impressed they decided to support the effort by doing something they haven’t done in years — walk the beat themselves.

“They are really motivated people,” says Stephanie Reynolds, of the type of gritty volunteers who typically make up such foot patrols. Reynolds, program coordinator for the city’s Crime Prevention Program, helps support the dozen or so foot patrols in Portland and but had never heard of one getting the police to walk the beat.

But she’s not surprised. “They are the type of people who want to get things done.”

Read the rest at The Oregonian/OregonLive

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