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West End group offers $10K to move Portland neighborhood police center

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West End group offers $10K to move Portland neighborhood police center

PORTLAND — A neighborhood organization is offering a portion of a $38,000 federal grant to help relocate the West End community policing station from Harbor Terrace.

The West End Community Action Network, comprised of the West End Neighborhood Association, Mercy Hospital and the Community Counseling Center, have offered the city $10,000 from its federal Community Development Block Grant for crime prevention to move the community policing center to a more visible and accessible location. 

The station is currently housed in Harbor Terrace, a group housing complex at 284 Danforth St. operated by the Portland Housing Authority. It was moved there from a different location on Danforth Street several years ago as a cost-cutting measure that saved the city more than $10,000.

Residents and city officials agree that Harbor Terrace is not an ideal location, because the public cannot easily access the building. Those seeking entry must call the front desk and be buzzed in.

WENA President Rosanne Graef said residents support the emphasis being placed on community policing by police Chief James Craig, who has reassigned lead officers to sectors throughout the city and engaged young people through a youth services division. They see increasing the visibility of the community policing center as an important step towards bolstering that effort. 

"We are looking at community policing as a successful model," Graef said. "We want to capitalize on those changes to achieve the greatest beneficial impact on the West End."

One potential site being explored for the center is the former Spring Street Market at the corner of Spring and Clark streets. Graef said the neighborhood association still believes the policing center should be located in the Reiche Community Center, but would support moving it to the former market.

"That's seems to be where all of the action is," she said. 

In addition to submitting WECAN's offer for financial assistance, Graef said WENA collected and submitted nearly 200 signatures on a petition to Craig, City Manager Joseph Gray, City Councilor David Marshall and School Committee member Robert O'Brien.

Marshall said he began working with city officials to address residents' concerns long before the petition effort. He said the Spring Street site would be ideal and that the former LearningWorks office on Danforth Street would make a good second option.

The city could reach an agreement with the landlord at either location within the next month or so, Marshall said.

"If anything, the petition shows there is community support," he said. "I'm happy to see we're having some progress in the right direction."

But any potential move of the community policing station could be temporary. Marshall said the $10,000 donation would be enough to cover 12 months of rent at one location being considered, which would require the council to consider a more stable funding mechanism during the upcoming budget process.

Graef said residents still believe Reiche Community Center is the best location for the station, because that is where many of the problems are occurring. Marshall said the city is still working on conducting a space audit of that building, so the city can understand how the community center is being used by the schools and residents. 

Although supportive of the space audit, Superintendent of Schools James C. Morse Sr. said the district will not endorse moving the community policing to the community center because students use the space during the school day as a music room and cafeteria. Those uses cannot take place within the school, Morse said, because Reiche has an open layout. 

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Mercy Hospital would have to submit an amendment to its CDBG work plan before $10,000 could be re-allocated to the policing center. Meanwhile, the city will continue to pursue other potential locations.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net