|Anti-crime activist advises Argay
Campbell, of Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc., is best known for providing training for landlords and property managers, under the auspices of the Portland Police Bureau, on how not to rent to criminals. He has given such training to 12,000 people in Portland alone and has held special sessions in 29 states.
However, at the request of Argay Neighborhood Association Chair Valerie Curry, he told about 50 people how it all began. In 1989, as a new resident to the inner northeast Sabin neighborhood, he discovered that there were five drug houses on his block.
My reaction was, We need to move out of here, Campbell said. His wife, who had fallen in love with the neighborhood, resisted. Then one night things got out of hand, with people outside at 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. yelling insults, he recalled. Now my wife said, You were right; weve got to get out of here. But I also switched. Its not right to get run out of a neighborhood.
I was thinking like a neighborhood leader I decided to do something rather than expect someone else to do it. I called the police and 24 hours later the problem was solved, right? There was grim laughter. Its not just a problem with the police bureau, its a problem with the whole country. Our constitution says we dont want the police to raid a house on the basis of one phone call.
What most people do at first is nothing at all, which is a good American thing to do. Ill give you a chance to calm down. Then it continues to go on, and frustration starts to grow. There are feelings of despair. No one cares about this but me. Every once in a while someone says, No one cares about this but me therefore, Im in charge. Others did things to make this a fine place to live, and now its my turn. You dont have to be elected. Youre behaving in the manner our constitution expected people to behave: involvement through resentment. But you need to be effective rather than act the way youd like to act, Campbell said.
He stressed repeatedly that complaints need to be made and crimes need to be reported. However, he said, Youve got to have the skills, or acquire them, to get other people involved, and not just the people you have coffee with all the time. If just one person calls, youre the crazy person who always calls. If many people do it, people will listen.
Campbell suggested a number of tactics:
Call the landlords of rental houses that rent to problem tenants, and dont automatically assume they wont listen to you. He contacted the owner of one problem house in Missouri; the mans reaction to Campbells complaint was, Why didnt someone tell me this was happening?
Try a courteous approach to problem households. Learn who your neighbors are, and greet them by name, he said. Even if youre furious and angry, you can put it aside and talk to them. Make deposits in their emotional bank account before you start making withdrawals. Part of the problem, for Argay and other places, is a lack of community solidarity. Societys changed, Campbell said. Its not George Bushs fault, the mayors or the governors. In the old, beautiful days, if kids misbehaved, the neighbors told Mom. We can re-create the kind of parents we used to have.
A tactic to deal with speeding cars, a major problem in many communities, is to yourself drive at or below the speed limit, setting an example and forcing others to do so too.
Report not just criminal activity, but code violations on the upkeep of property. This is a way to not only keep the pressure on bad landlords, but to address the community neglect that breeds crime. We have ravenous wolves, sitting ducks, and dens of iniquity, he said. We can get rid of the wolf, but if we leave behind a run-down neighborhood, a place where you can commit crime and get away with it, youll just get another one.
Keep neighbors informed of what youre doing, even if they dont join your effort. Dont call them a jerk; just keep them involved. People do change.
Organize group activities. The Overlook Neighborhood Association in North Portland organized a very aggressive foot patrol to fight the prostitution that once plagued its neighborhood. Sabin tried a variation on this with a litter patrol. We created a presence out there, and the darndest things happened, Campbell said. People came out and talked to us.
One resident suggested making prostitutes very uncomfortable by giving them attention, asking them what they were doing in the neighborhood. In contrast, resident Diana Brown, who complained the activity occurs in front of her house, said, By telling them youre watching them, youre calling attention to yourself.
I would never tell you to walk up to prostitutes individually and talk to them, Campbell agreed. He said that at one point during his personal crusade in Sabin, a stick of dynamite was set off beneath his car; three days later, his wifes car was blown up. I went from being too timid to being too bold, he said.
Ironically, Campbell had a hand in removing one police tool, the prostitution-free zone. Mayor Tom Potter cited a study compiled by Campbell DeLong to abolish the controversial law. (See Neighbors question zones demise, this issue.) Commenting on this at the forum, Campbell said, The fact is, the city has stopped doing this. So does it make sense to continue discussing it here?
Some of those present expressed impatience with Campbells folksy manner and complained of lack of action from city officials. About a third left before the end of the 90-minute session. Campbell said, If your mission is to prove the city wont be helpful, I give up. You win. But if your mission is to get something done, there are things you can do.
At one point Campbell yielded the floor to Lt. Kevin Modica, commander of East Precincts night shift and a 22-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau. He said he often sweeps the KMart parking lot after hours to get rid of loiterers. He seconded Campbells urging to always report criminal activity. All police personnel may not share my fervor, but we have a commander who says this is a priority. Referring to a group of new row houses on Northeast Prescott Drive, he said, I dont like them either. Its dark, theres garbage spread around, people lurking behind trees. Im taking them into my personal portfolio. As affordable housing, (they are) a foot up for some people. Unfortunately, they take their problems with them.
Both Campbell and Modica recommended site hardening, eliminating places to hide on property and not leaving what look like valuables in plain sight. Modica related how, at the instigation of community activist Kate Hussein, the city erected a barrier on Northeast 14th Place to make it less desirable for cruising. It was one of the catalysts that led to the renaissance on Northeast Alberta Street, he said. Regarding Campbell, Modica confirmed the story of the dynamiting and said, (Campbells) a warrior, as much as anyone whos ever worn the uniform. He suggested publicizing victories and campaigns, saying, Theres a lot of good work in this neighborhood that you dont hear about.
Curry later told the Memo that she had received several favorable reviews of the session. It put me in touch with people not previously involved with the neighborhood association, she said. Conditions on Prescott Drive have improved, she said, in no small part due to the cooperation of landlords and managers. The apartments are cleaning up their trash diligently, and neighbors are starting to follow up, she said.
Its difficult to tell you anything that will make things better immediately, Campbell said. I wont tell you theres one magic phone number. But if you work at this, in six months things will be better. In a year theyll be dramatically better. Having a decent neighborhood isnt a right. Its a responsibility.
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