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Shooting anniversary: Police keep up vigilance at Clackamas Town Center

As 10,000 screaming people ran out of the Clackamas Town Center mall a year ago, two police officers pressed through the tide to trap the shooter in a service stairwell where he eventually shot himself.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - After checking for valid fare, Transit Police Officer Curtis Brown arrests Nicholas Glendon Davis on an identity-theft charge at the end of the light-rail line at Clackamas Town Center.How was it that police were able to respond so quickly last Dec. 11? Short answer: TriMet’s more than $10 million annual security budget includes extra holiday-season patrols out of the CTC Transit Police Precinct, located beneath the light-rail stop’s parking garage. Without those extra funds, those officers would not have arrived at work as the first shots were fired.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - CCSO Sgt. Lynn Schoenfeld handcuffs Lance Travis Hart, 26, in the JCPenney on Dec. 5 before finding out about the warrant for his arrest.Instead of a 10-second dash across the parking lot, the first-arriving Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputy would have been the district officer navigating his patrol car against the crowd rushing out of the mall. Killing Cindy Yuille of Portland and Steve Forsyth of West Linn, Jacob Roberts arrived at the mall with an AK-15 semi-automatic in his Volkswagen Jetta, so he never used transit in committing the crime.

This December, CCSO Sgt. Lynn Schoenfeld still leads CTC’s TriMet team, which is technically a division of the Portland Police Bureau with 17 partner agencies, in patrolling the mall and transit center to “catch the bad guys.” While demonstrating his five-member team’s duties on a typical weekday afternoon this month, Schoenfeld emphasized that the mall remains a safe place.

CTC’s large number of reported crimes (“Town Center crime rates on decline,” Nov. 27) stems from the “vigilance” of mall security and his deputies in pressing charges, and from the mass of people coming together and watching out for suspicious activities. Statistically, you’re less likely to become a crime victim at CTC than at smaller venues in the region.

“There’s lots of people in one spot and lots of potential for victimhood here,” Schoenfeld said. “We want high-drive personable folks on transit police to get out there and generate statistics, and they do a tremendous job in making sure that people who are threats to the system are removed from the system.”

Threats include everything from armed felons to public nuisances. As soon as the deputies stepped out of their office into the freezing CTC parking lot, they caught a man lighting up directly under the bus stop’s no-smoking sign. Since he immediately snuffed out his cigarette, apologized and cooperated with their request to check his identification, he got off with a warning. Then a 14-year-old girl from Westview High School tried to jump across to another train when she saw them checking for proof of payment. She also lacked a criminal record, but Schoenfeld gave her a stern talking-to and forced her to buy bus fare before he would return her student-ID card.

Meanwhile, Portland Officer Curtis Brown caught a spry 23-year-old man named Nicholas Glendon Davis with a suspicious Honored Citizen pass usually reserved for disabled people and seniors. In a move that defied logic, Davis told police he was Brandon Lee Mitchell, who had a warrant out for his arrest. Handcuffs came out on CTC’s MAX train platform as Brown patted Davis down, finding a marijuana pipe and a 5-inch switchblade that by itself earned Davis a 90-day TriMet exclusion. Davis has been arrested previously in 2010 for interfering with police, but he had no warrant.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - CCSO Deputy Steve VanMetre checks for fare violations at the Clackamas Town Center light-rail stop.Police then marched Davis down to the CTC Precinct’s holding cell to “sort things out.” His fingerprints came back from the FBI identifying him as Davis. Even though he was carrying identification, a social-security card and birth certificate with the name “Davis,” Davis continued to insist that he was Mitchell, even though he didn’t have any contact information for his “friend” named Davis.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Deputy Steve VanMetre leads Lance Travis Hart through the Clackamas Town Center mall to find out that the suspected fake $100 bill he passed was in fact genuine.“When people put ‘honest to God’ or something like that in front of what they’re saying, they’re usually lying,” Brown noted. “He’s also having trouble getting his words out and refusing to look us in the face as we ask him questions, which are tell-tale signs of deceit.”

Just as Schoenfeld decided to charge Davis with identity theft and providing false information to police, mall security called with a new threat: A running white male suspect had been trying to pass a fake $100 bill and eluding capture attempts. Schoenfeld, who knows CTC “like the back of his hand” after working it in the ‘90s when it had a gang-prevention unit, caught up with Lance Travis Hart in the JCPenney. It turned out that the $100 bill that Hart, 26, changed at Regal Cinemas was genuine, but he had a warrant out for his arrest. In less than two hours, police had filled both of the precinct’s holding cells.

And for the question worth at least $100: Can we expect more crime in Milwaukie and Oak Grove when the light-rail line opens there in 2015? In TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt’s view, the only difference will be a system that’s better designed to prevent crime. She expected there to be a similar jump in reported crimes with a decline in the overall crime rate, the same pattern seen over the past few years at CTC.

“Anytime you open a new line, you’re going to have an increase in reported crime,” Altstadt said. “But that crime was there before TriMet services came in, and if we weren’t there, it would just go unreported.”

Schoenfeld agreed, saying that the arrival of light rail could help the largely upstanding and vigilant Oak Grove community’s fight against its above-average rate of meth users. There were also a number of social services for addicts in the Clackamas area when trains started rolling through in 2009.

“It’s not like that drug use wouldn’t happen if TriMet weren’t here,” Altstadt said.

When Milwaukie’s line does open, Schoenfeld promises that CCSO and Transit Police will be there to read the faces of passengers for suspicious activity. He asserted this is not racial or any other type of profiling, but rather an eye to dramatic changes in people’s behavior when confronted with police.




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