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Woodstock Blvd. volunteer honored for crime-prevention efforts

by: David F. Ashton ONI Crime Prevention Coordinator Jenni Bernheisel presents the “Neighborhood Watch Award” to Woodstock Boulevard resident Terah Beth Varga, assisted by Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

While the Portland Police Bureau works to detect crime and apprehend criminals, another City of Portland agency, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement's Crime Prevention Program, is charged with organizing and supporting community partnerships to prevent crime and the fear of crime.

'These crime-prevention services are helping reduce crime, increase livability, and get neighbors involved in community policing efforts,' explained Jenni Bernheisel, one of ONI's Southeast Portland Crime Prevention specialists.

At the ONI Crime Prevention Awards ceremony held in the plaza in front of City Hall, downtown, this summer, several citizen and organization volunteers were honored for their crime thwarting activities.

East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinator Jenni Bernheisel presented the 'Neighborhood Watch Award' to Terah Beth Varga of Inner Southeast Portland for spearheading work to stop crime in a church parking lot at S.E. 80th Avenue and S.E. Woodstock Blvd.

'There were drug deals there, night and day,' said Bernheisel. 'Not only did Varga and the neighbors start to call police and report suspicious and criminal activities, they took things to a whole new level by completely redesigning the parking area.'

Varga has shown tremendous leadership by organizing volunteers for projects to improve the block, commended Bernheisel. 'She named the group Our Happy Block - and applied for grants to help fund de-paving the church parking lot. That stopped the easy access for drug dealers to cut through the parking lot. The volunteers of Our Happy Block also planted grass and plant life native to Oregon in the newly de-paved area.

In conclusion, Bernheisel said that Varga had gone 'above and beyond as a leader. She is proven that there are no limits to what a Neighborhood Watch program can do.'

To find out how Portland's Crime Prevention Program Coordinators can help you 'take a bite out of crime', go online to their official webpage: www.portlandonline.com/oni/index.cfm?c=28395 .