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Along for the ride

SW Connection lead reporter's police ride-along turns into pursuit of runaway burglar


Officer Brian Hughes of the Central Precinct Neighborhood Unit helps create The Southwest Community Connection’s monthly police blotter and recently invited me on a ride-along.

Southwest may be perceived as the safest and most benign of Portland’s four quadrants, but it is still quietly crime-ridden, as I now know firsthand.

Our ride-along Nov. 2 had barely begun when, around 12 p.m., we got word over the patrol car’s police radio that a burglary had just occurred in the 6400 block of Southwest Burlingame Place. Hughes told me to brace myself, and just like that, we were barreling down Southwest Barbur Boulevard at around 90 mph, lights flashing and siren blaring. I later learned that driving at such speeds was safe only because the road was dry.

On Southwest Burlingame Avenue, Hughes left the vehicle for 15 minutes and went to consult with another officer on the scene. While he was gone, I listened to the police radio and heard the physical description of the suspect: white male, 25 years old, 6’02”, thin build, black hair, wearing a black bomber jacket, blue jeans and carrying a backpack.

Hughes returned and as we were turning on Southwest Chestnutt Street when we learned that a construction site crossing guard had seen and spoken to the female driver of the burglar’s getaway car, a “beater-type ’97 gray Buick Regal.” We then drove to the corner of Southwest Vermont Street and Southwest Barbur Boulevard, where Hughes conferred with an officer from the Police K-9 Unit. People inside The Watershed at Hillsdale and pedestrians on the sidewalk watched us, looking curious and a little scared. When Hughes got back in the car he told me that he wished he had the time to tell every individual citizen that they were in no danger, but then we were called to the corner of Southwest Parkhill Way and Southwest Nebraska Street. Hughes told me he wished I could come with him, but protocol dictated that I stay in the car and then he left, running down Southwest Parkhill Drive with another officer, hoping to catch the runaway burglar. by: SUBMITTED: KOIN LOCAL 6 - Me (far right) talking to neighbors after a burglary on Southwest Burlingame Place Nov. 2.

Hughes came back half an hour later with no sight of the burglar, so we left and drove to Southwest Burlingame Place, the scene of the crime. I was permitted to leave the patrol car while Hughes conducted interviews and worked with a detective on the scene. During this time, I learned that the details of the burglary: Burlingame Place resident Anne Johnson noticed the Buick driving down the block several times, with some items that she knew to belong to her neighbor in tow. Before it took off, she got pictures of the car. Thereafter, she spotted a man leaving the house with some stolen cameras on a bike that she knew to belong to her neighbor as well. Instinctively, she started yelling at him and chased him down the street.

The burglar got away, but because Johnson had taken pictures and the crossing guard had gotten a visual, police were able to identify the getaway driver as 32-year-old Bronwynn Johanna Kauffman, who was later arrested.