Sara Renkins is the associate director for Transportation and Parking Services. She oversees the TAPs department, which includes the parking enforcement officers, who often face difficult or hostile people while on duty.

Smart Park employees assaulted off-campus

CPSO increases patrols as vehicle break-ins rise, university employees asked to remain vigilant

On Monday Jan. 30, in an off-campus, non-university Smart Park facility located on Southwest 3rd and Alder, two men attempting to steal or “prowl” an automobile assaulted two employees on patrol in the facility.

CPSO increases patrols as vehicle break-ins rise, university employees asked to remain vigilant
Sara Renkins is the associate director for Transportation and Parking Services. She oversees the TAPs department, which includes the parking enforcement officers, who often face difficult or hostile people while on duty.
Drew Martig / Vanguard Staff
Sara Renkins is the associate director for Transportation and Parking Services. She oversees the TAPs department, which includes the parking enforcement officers, who often face difficult or hostile people while on duty.

On Monday Jan. 30, in an off-campus, non-university Smart Park facility located on Southwest 3rd and Alder, two men attempting to steal or “prowl” an automobile assaulted two employees on patrol in the facility.

According to a report released by the Portland Police Bureau, the two employees were patrolling the facility and cleaning drains when they were alerted to suspicious activity on the eighth floor of the building. When they arrived, they found two men who appeared to have just completed a prowl of a vehicle. When the employees confronted the men, one suspect began to hit the employees with a metal pipe. The other suspect produced a handgun but no shots were fired.

The victims fled the scene by escaping through the stairwell of the building. One of the employees sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported from the scene to a local hospital. Medical personnel treated the other employee at the scene.

It was later discovered that the prowled car in fact belonged to one of the victims and one of the suspects was spotted in possession of a backpack owned by one of the victims. According to the report, “The suspects are described as white males in their 20s, 5’08” to 5’10”, slim to medium builds, wearing black hoodies, one with a shaved head.”

Portland area parking structures aren’t the only scenes for vehicular crimes. Criminal activity in Portland State on-campus parking structures has surged over the last three months. From November 2011 to January 2012, there have been 24 reports filed by CPSO of break-ins of vehicles. These break-ins, specifically referred to as UEMVs or Unlawful Entry to a Motor Vehicle, have included damages to car windows with some cases including thefts of items from the vehicles.

Phil Zerzan, director of CPSO, stated that the activity is somewhat centered. “Some analysis shows that these are occurring more frequently in Parking Structure 3 and Blumel Parking.”

Additionally, Zerzan stated that CPSO has examined the times at which the break-ins occurred and found that there is “an identifiable pattern.” CPSO is working on “a tactical plan to identify and apprehend the responsible [parties],” Zerzan said.

With students paying up to $330 a term to park in these structures, the university is examining how they can make these spaces safer for students, their vehicles and their belongings. Additionally, CPSO and Transportation and Parking Services are partnering to make their own patrols safer for student and university employees.

TAPS patrols at PSU and CPSO were both alerted to the Smart Park incident and were reminded to maintain safe practices while on their patrols. Sarah Renkens, associate director of TAPS, said that, “As part of their training, officers learn to contact CPSO if they encounter any suspicious, hostile or disorderly individuals.”

“Our enforcement officers, who are all students, help to identify suspicious activity, but are not trained to approach dangerous situations. CPSO assists in training our enforcement officers once a year to help them handle difficult or hostile people and to determine what types of situations should be reported to CPSO,” Renkens said.

CPSO is not often called in to assist in a situation, Renkens said. “CPSO may be called to assist our staff once per month or less, generally due to an extremely hostile or threatening person.”

While these incidents are rare, they can still be very dangerous.

“In the past, we’ve had enforcement officers nearly hit by a car when someone intentionally swerved at them after receiving a citation,” Renkens said. “We’ve also had a confrontation that included someone throwing an immobilizing boot, which weighs about 50 pounds, at one of our enforcement officers. Those are certainly situations that CPSO assists with and, in some cases, criminal charges are pressed against the individuals.”

While TAPS officers do not carry mace or any other protective weapons, they do have constant direct radio contact to both CPSO and the TAPS office. Employees are trained to avoid dangerous situations and asked to leave if such a situation should arise. They are asked not to confront situations that may be dangerous.

In order to improve security in parking structures, both CPSO and TAPS have increased the frequency of their patrols and have been asked to patrol stairwells in buildings for criminal activity.

Students are asked to remove valuable belongings from their vehicles when parking in university parking structures. Due to the metropolitan location of the university, it asks students to take precautions to secure themselves and their belongings. Students who don’t feel safe walking to and from their vehicles may contact CPSO, and can be provided with an escort on campus.

Transportation and Parking has also been working diligently to replace and fix the lights in the parking structures. Currently, 94 percent of the lights in the parking structures are functional. Lights in some structures are also scheduled for upgrades. During the upgrades to the Blumel student residence hall next year, lights and facilities in the parking structure will also be renovated. Parking Structure 1 is also scheduled for renovations.

All suspicious activity can be reported to CPSO at 503-725-4404.

Those who have any tips or information regarding the Smart Park incident are asked to call detective Mike Smith at 503-823-0871 or email the Portland Police Bureau at [email protected] oregon.gov.