By Brad Taylor
As a crime prevention coordinator for the city of Portland, I think about trees often. When I perform a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) study of a location, I look at the lighting, landscaping and territoriality of the property. Trees play a huge role in defining a location. They can give the impression that the property is being looked after; this is a deterrent for crime.
After discussing trees and crime prevention with Friends of Trees Volunteer & Outreach Manager Andy Meeks, I realized that the mission of Friends of Trees is very similar to my goal as a crime prevention coordinator. Building community through tree planting is a core value of Friends of Trees; I work to build community through addressing and preventing crimes.
I am responsible for five neighborhoods in Portland. Each of my neighborhoods touches the Ave of Roses. Crime, unfortunately, is not uncommon along the avenue. I have been working with neighbors, businesses, agencies and associations to address and prevent crime.
The Ave of Roses poses some challenges. Prostitution seems to be ever-present in the evening and often in the daytime hours, the avenue doesn’t feel inviting for pedestrians, and there isn’t a sense of territoriality in the public spaces. I work to establish Neighborhood Watches and Community Foot Patrols, and I participate on a liquor licensing team within the city to address concerns about establishments that serve alcohol and have had problems at their location. Additionally, I participate on the city’s Graffiti Task Force and work to share information among neighbors, police officers and district attorneys.
As a crime prevention coordinator, I also work with property managers of multi-family complexes to better screen tenants and secure the property. (Roughly 180 properties citywide work with Crime Prevention.) I am also working with the Portland Police Bureau and the District Attorney’s office to formulate a plan to deal with crimes occurring at motels along the 82nd Ave of Roses. Finally, on the ground level, I am beginning to form partnerships between neighbors, businesses and associations to create and maintain livability teams composed of volunteers who will clean and report graffiti, pick up litter, and report suspicious and criminal activity. None of these efforts alone will change the energy and reputation of the Ave. of Roses, but together they can add up to a big change.
The role of street trees
Well chosen, planted and maintained trees give the impression that the area is being cared for and is cared about. Trees can provide a distraction, though not a cover, from prostitutes trying to get the attention of passing prospective johns. Trees can make the avenue have a stronger sense of community. Trees will help offset the noise and air pollution produced by passing motor vehicles. Trees make pedestrians feel more welcome; the more legitimate pedestrian traffic the better, as the best form of crime prevention is having honest eyes and ears on the street. Trees can help invite the community to be present and active on the avenue.
And planting the trees with Friends of Trees builds community.
I am excited about the possibility of working with Friends of Trees as we all try to make the 82nd Ave of Roses a safe and more pleasant stretch of road.
–Friends of Trees appreciates this story submitted by guest blogger Brad Taylor, Crime Prevention Program Coordinator for East Portland.
U.S. Forest Service researcher Geoffrey Donovan’s study conducted in Portland shows the relationship between trees and lower crime rates. You can read about the study in the San Francisco Chronicle.