Overlook Village Business Association Takes a Bite Out of Crime
By Mark Wells, Crime Prevention Coordinator
Office of Neighborhood Involvement
Portlanders have been enjoying the rich mix of flavors and products for sale from locally owned and run businesses along N. Killingsworth from I-5 to Greeley for many years now. Whether it’s enjoying fresh Zappoli’s from DiPrima Dolci Bakery, a tasty glass of wine at the Hop and Vine, or a hot slice of handcrafted pizza from Atomic Pizza, residents in the Overlook neighborhood take great delight and pride in their local businesses. In a challenging economic time, the small businesses along this stretch of N. Killingsworth have teamed up to form “Overlook Village”, Portland’s most recently recognized Business District Association.
Yetta Vorobik, owner of The Hop and Vine and president of Overlook Village, contacted me early on to invite me and the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program to play a role with their association to ensure patrons, residents, and staff continued to work and live in a safe neighborhood. Although the Overlook area enjoys a relatively low crime rate, it is prone to continual graffiti, street drinking, and occasional drug dealing. Understanding the importance of providing patrons with a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment, Yetta was concerned about these habitual livability problems and I was happy to join their efforts.
Just like a Neighborhood Watch, Crime Prevention also provides training and support for what we call a Business Watch. It works in the same way by providing each business the opportunity to become a part of the public safety system, increase communication, and help each other maintain a safe work environment. After speaking with several of the business owners it was clear many smaller issues simply were not getting addressed. There were two mailboxes splattered with five year old graffiti. There was an abandoned phone booth that provided a great place for drug dealing. These issues were addressed and the owners do a great job of cleaning graffiti off their buildings and reporting and documenting criminal activity in hopes of staying one step ahead of the criminal element and ensuring this business area remains clean and safe.
When I asked Yetta to describe why she called me and asked the City of Portland to partner with their group she told me, “I find it very important to have an open dialog with the surrounding members in your community, including city officials. By having open lines of communication, businesses, residents and city officials are better able to know what is happening in specific areas of the city. By deterring crime together we are creating a neighborhood (village) that has an open and safe feeling.”
Jenna Forzley, owner of Atomic Pizza, recently described this partnership saying, “It is important for us to stay proactive and involved in the many issues facing our neighborhoods because that is what community is about. It's not just the city's issue, or government, or tri-met, or business owners, property owners or a resident's issue, it's all of our issue. It's about working together, being informed and supporting each other to combat crime. The way the City's crime prevention programs can help in this effort is by keeping the community informed, having a strong presence in the community and making support easily accessible and user friendly. The best thing we all can do as a community is work together, communicate and respond quickly when issues do come up. The old saying "it takes a village", well this is our village and we all need to work together to keep it.”
Long term goals for this partnership include formalizing a Business Watch and establishing a graffiti team to quickly report and remove graffiti and also provide general trash pick up and also report other criminal activity they discover. Overlook Village is a wonderful example of how individual citizens and business owners can stand up against crime and roll up their sleeves to help the City prevent and respond to crime and livability issues.
Please go to the Office of Neighborhood Involvement web site to find out more about the City’s crime prevention program and how you can get involved. Check out Overlook Village on Neighborhood Notes and read about this and other city Business Associations.
Start a village in your own neighborhood and help keep Portland the wonderful city it is!