The Public Safety Summit held in Gresham on March 21 produced a lot of talk about reducing crime. We're happy to report, however, that the talk also is turning into action.
One encouraging initiative following the summit is coming from Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto, who is offering to use inmate work crews from the county jail to clean up graffiti and vandalism in Gresham.
The sheriff's idea is a model of how agencies can work together to reduce the perception of crime in Gresham. The sheriff would provide the crews, and the Metro regional government, which collects old paint at its recycling centers, could supply the paint needed to cover up graffiti. Inmates would be deployed on public property only, but that's where much of the vandalism is occurring anyway - along transit lines, in parks, near schools and around other publicly owned facilities.
The sheriff believes he can have the inmate program up and running by summer. Based on testimony given at the March 21 summit, local citizens will welcome any attempt to improve Gresham's image by eliminating such outward signs of gang-related behavior.
While Giusto is moving ahead with his anti-graffiti plan, Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, who organized the summit, is following through with the formation of a public safety task force. This group of 35 local citizens will study the issue of crime in Gresham and return with recommendations in six months. It's early to say whether Bemis' focus on the crime issue will have a permanent effect. But based on these initial, encouraging signs, we believe that the public safety summit already is producing worthwhile results.