According to the mayor of Gresham, Oregon, 40 percent of robberies and drug crimes — as well as 80 percent of gang-related police calls — in his city take place within a quarter mile of a light-rail station. He made this statement in an interview with conservative talk-radio host Lars Larson.
Vandalism and burgleries are also a problem, according to this article in the Oregonian.
The mayor didn’t say anything about violent crime, such as the recent beating of a 71-year-old man by a 15-year-old boy with a baseball bat.
TriMet blames the problems on the neighborhood, not light rail. “The transit system reflects the community it travels through,” said a transit agency spokesperson. “They have a lot of poverty, unemployment and gang issues, and occasionally that will come onto the train system.” Of course, the reason why that neighborhood has poverty is that the region’s planning-induced housing shortage has gentrified Portland’s low-income neighborhoods and pushed the poor into subsidized transit-oriented developments.
In addition, the Gresham police say that many criminals are”commuting in from other areas” on the light rail. As the Gresham Outlook says, a “contributor to crime in Gresham is the MAX light rail.”
Gresham is about 22.2 square miles and there are seven light-rail stations in the city, so the land within a quarter-mile of those stations covers about 6 percent of the city. So is the fact that some kinds of crime are seven times more likely to take place near light-rail station than in the rest of the city indicate that light-rail brought those crimes into the city? I am sure some people will say it does not, but it sounds pretty conclusive to me.
TriMet’s solution is to install more cameras. Since TriMet has too few security guards monitoring its trains, the city of Gresham is going to have its own police officers patrol the trains. Thus, taxpayers have to pay one more time to keep the light rail rolling.