PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – While Portland and Gresham share similar issues like gun violence and homelessness, the city of Gresham is proposing a levy, and other investments, to increase public safety.
The city launched its Safe Gresham initiative in 2022 to promote public safety, which Mayor Travis Stovall says includes elements like prevention, innovation and collaboration — which he says is a “bedrock” of public safety.
The City of Gresham describes the initiative as “a community violence prevention effort between City leadership, Gresham Police and the community.”
Safe Gresham includes a $5.2 million investment from American Rescue Plan funding towards “public safety with City Council support,” along with expansion of the city’s advanced camera program in high-crime areas, enhanced safety patrol missions with the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and funding to promote police recruiting.
Building off of Safe Gresham, Stovall says the city needs to increase resources with the public safety levy, which will launch in February.
The levy would support hiring more officers and civilian police positions for Gresham’s understaffed police department and hire more fire marshals and firefighters. Additionally, the public safety levy will feature provisions to aid in the homeless crisis — including expansion of the Gresham Homeless Services Team, forming a Crisis Response Team and a Police Behavioral Health Team, as reported by the Portland Tribune.
According to Mayor Stovall, initial polling found that roughly 60% of Gresham residents support the public safety levy — which he says will cost Gresham residents about $35 per month.
“Some of that is motivated, I think, by the rise we’ve seen over the last three or four years in the violent crimes that’s going on not just here in the region but across the country,” Stovall said.
The mayor also pointed out that Gresham has a declining homicide rate with approximately 15 homicides in 2023, followed by 10 homicides in 2022.
“We exist on the eastern edge of Portland and really what happens in eastern Portland and western Gresham is not unique,” Stovall said. “We did see a rise in east Portland, which impacts Gresham, and so sadly enough our community members, their community members there in Portland, are experiencing some of those challenges. We have to improve that collaboration effort with Multnomah County, the City of Portland and Gresham Police Department.”
Along with the public safety levy, the mayor says the $135 million investment in Gresham’s new library will also help with crime in the area.
“One of the critical things, I think, to fighting the crime challenge that we have throughout the region is to ensure that we’re giving people opportunity. And the foundation of that is the new library,” Stovall told KOIN 6 News.
The library is also being built by the same architect behind the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Stovall noted.
Stovall says the library will “allow for opportunity within our community. And that’s critical, that’s really that prevention piece.”