Robert McCullough is a member of the Robert Mculllough Group.
McCullough is an energy economist who is active in his neighborhood and on city committees. He lives in Portland.
As I type this, I'm also checking whether the unlocked, slightly damaged Mercedes left in front of my home without license plates has been stolen and abandoned. In 1968, the Portland City Club published a detailed report on the Oregon Police that stated the number of stolen cars in 1967 2,672 or one car stolen for every 143 residents. In the last 12 months, the number of cars stolen is 7.802; in the same period, it was 7.825. One vehicle theft per 84 residents. My chance of having my car stolen during my lifetime was a little better than one in three in 1967. It is now one in two.
The City Hall debate over defunding police in Portland over the last year has as is usual - largely gone without data or analysis. With the number of active officers actually decreasing, looking at the numbers is critical to making an informed decision.
The number of officers in Portland in 1967 was about 700, about 100 less than the police officers, lieutenants, detectives, and other sworn members Portland Police has today. However, the city has grown to about 270,000 people and 60 square miles since then. In 1967, the city employed one policeman for every 551 residents. The ratio is now one to 818 citizens.
Not all of the news is good. In 1967, Burglary accounted for 6,061 crimes. Even after recent increases, the number of burglaries in the past 12 months was only 4,832. Electronic alarms and video doorbells have certainly had a negative impact on burglaries.
Murder isn't as good a picture as it is portrayed. Portland suffered 46 homicides in 1967. Portland had 80 homicides for the 12 months from October 2020 to September 2021, almost twice as many as in previous years. Even worse, the homicides in the preceding 12-month period were only 46, almost doubling in a year.
Defunding the police often requires a very basic understanding of public safety. While detectives work hard to find murders, deterrence is less glamorous and, ultimately, more important. Bar fights don't escalate if police are on patrol. Additional police allow for specialization and familiarity with the surrounding community. Even the most unnoticed assignments traffic - result in a reduction in deaths and injuries from accidents.
Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps' op-ed last month ("More police, expanded alternatives must be part of gun violence response," Sept. 19) made the point well and it received a lot of attention on social media. A poll on Nextdoor found 83 percent of respondents were in favor of the city council adopting his recommendation, compared to just 10 percent who were opposed.
So, where does this leave us? Portland's outdated governing structure, it has been claimed, has five mayors and no leader. This has been evident from our recent experience in setting policing guidelines. Although not ideal, the day-to-day resources of public safety have been stretched dangerously thin. We have only 66% of the coverage, measured by officers to population, that we had in 1967, compared to 50 years ago. It is taking longer and longer for police to respond to 911 calls, and violent crime is rising, not surprising. It is time for the City Council to adopt a fact-based approach to the issue and take positive steps to address it.