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Why Is Cash Strapped Portland Spending Money on a "Cold Case" Program?

Portland to invest in a program that will seek to solve 280 cold cases up to 30 years old.
Is it just me, or is there something wrong with the picture in tonight's local news?

It was announced this evening that Oregon faces a $1 billion shortfall. Portland is strapped for revenues and cutting programs, yet it can apparently find enough extra cash to fund a "Cold Case" program which will seek to solve 280 cold cases from the 1970s forward.

This decision is being made at a time when there is so much crime in Portland neighborhoods that police cannot begin to respond adequately to the many complaints. Instead, they respond by degree with burglaries under a certain amount and in certain parts of town, animal nuisance and neglect, noise, vandalism, etc. being virtually ignored. We can't afford to keep criminals in prison and many are released prematurely after having done little or no time or community service.

The newscaster reported that the money for this program is currently coming from the City budget, "unless federal grands or money can be approved."

Why is the city wasting money "tidying up" after 280 years-old cases that benefit few people when it already has its hands full with current cases and we DO NOT HAVE MONEY TO SPARE?

Next we hear that the City Council is promoting a plan to run MAX through the transit corridor downtown. This involves levies on business owners in the downtown area to raise the money necessary for the project. Excuse me, but downtown businesses have a much harder time generating revenue already when suburbanites have a plethora of malls to choose from that are closer to home. Their property taxes are also much higher.

And WHY does MAX have to travel down SW 5th or 6th when it already crosses 5th and 6th at Pioneer Courthouse Square heading either east or west? It already goes all the way out to the airport. If the city plans to build a MAX on I205 in the future, wouldn't it be cheaper to keep the buses they plan to discard with this new "locate MAX in the transit corridor" plan and when the time comes to build the 205 line, simply extend the MAX line we've already got?

Randy Leonard is apparently the only Council member who opposes the plan, but he doesn't do so because he thinks it's a bad idea . . . only because he sees inequities between business owners when it comes to payments.

Can ANYBODY make sense of these two harebrained plans?
Measure 37 Vultures Will Have to Cry in Their Soup 10.Nov.2004 18:47

North Portlander

$1 billion dollar shortfall? Hmmmm, methinks poor old Dorothy English is not going to get her big property payoff ala Measure 37. :-)

cold cases 10.Nov.2004 22:19

teddy ruxpin (the lousy typist)

If they are doing them the same way they do in Salem, they will be using volunteers. These are known as reserve police officers (or reserve deputies), and are typically retired cops that still want to do something, or ex-cops that left for medical and financial reasons but still like to do this work.

And, a rape case from 30 years ago likely means that a rapist is still walking free in Portland.

I don't know if PDX is using reserves (I hope so).

Besides 11.Nov.2004 05:08

Mike stepbystepfarm <a> mtdata.com

The only "cold cases" from the the 70'2 and 80's they are likely to bother with are homocide cases (you have no statute of limitations on rape in Oregon?).

You need to consider this from the point of view of the families of the victims. Our system of justice says that they must stand aside and allow the state to pursue whoever was responsible, a kind of social contract. What does it mean when the state says in effect "we're not going to bother with this anymore".

The reality of homocide cases is that if the police do not have a very good idea who did it within a week or so (that doesn't mean enough proof to arrest even) then the case will probably never be solved. But "probably" is a term from probablility, and unlikely events DO happen every now and again. Yes, spending money on low probablity of solution cases is not an "efficient" use of resources, but social contracts aren't always about "efficiency".

Unreasonable Use of Resources - and NOT Free 11.Nov.2004 07:53

Cheney Watch

It was my understanding that the similar unit (cold case, DNA testing, CSI) in Salem was in trouble because of funding and was almost shut down at one point. Even if all the employees volunteer, which I can't even imagine, surely it takes specialized knowledge to conduct this sort of investigation . . . knowledge that not just any retired police officer might possess. And they would not be able to do the actual DNA testing. This would have to be outsourced to a specialist lab.

The reporter stated that funds would come from the City; that presumes (and reasonably so) that there will be a fair amount of expense involved that could be eased by the acquisition of federal money - something it sounds as though the city will try for but may or may not get.

In today's paper, the unit was described as "a five-member multi-agency Cold Case Homicide Unit". Nowhere does it say that these people are "volunteers", retirees, or working for nothing.

I understand that the families of victims want closure - I'm not insensitive - but the money spent trying to resolve 280 cold cases could be spent to help people who are living and hurting now . . . or help to keep that new prison and rehabilitation facility that can't be operated because of "no money" open. The people involved in the 280 cold cases are in the minority when you look at the larger picture. I presume that time and money was spent on their cases when they were fresh and has probably been spent from time to time since then or the files would not still be accessible.

When I was unemployed and broke, my dentist told me that I couldn't afford not to have regular dental exams and fillings. I replied that he might be right, but it wasn't a question of what I wanted to do, but what I could reasonably afford.

On another subject, no one has commented about MAX.

because they can 11.Nov.2004 15:46


Why Is Cash Strapped Portland Spending Money on a "Cold Case" Program?

a very simple answer - BECAUSE THEY CAN.

Without massive opposition by the public, the spending spree will
never end. We approved a temporary county income tax to finance
the hipocricy. The mandate was given: spend, spend, spend.
We don't object in masses when the gov't spends almost
unlimited tax dollars on roads, corporate welfare, etc. and
spends virtually nothing on healthcare, food and shelter for the
needy, alternative energy. We speak, they listen.

... 12.Nov.2004 00:10


personally i think maintaining funding for cold case programs is important, like stated above, a rapist from the 70's/80's could still go unpunished for the crime, or homocide, ext. As for the expansion of the MAX line, i think that would end up paying for itself over time as well as decrease emissions from bus's and make it more convient for commuters. Although i do see your point of it being unneeded since it already crosses 5th and 6th

Mia 12.Nov.2004 00:52


It was 'cold case' detectives that caught Mia Zapata's killer. She was lead singer of the Gits. Hardly a waste of money buddy.

Don Quixote Squad 13.Nov.2004 17:09

Get Real

Right, if a little is good, a lot must be better. Let's go back to the 1950s and attempt to solve all of the unsolved homicides in Portland. Who cares how much it costs?

Oh my, I don't care if there's not enough money to pay regular police to recover my stolen car or track down the hit and run driver who put my neighbor into the hospital last week if there's a chance the murderer of someone who died in 1970 gets caught . . . if he's still even alive.

And this group is NOT investigating rapes unless they resulted in murder. This is a homicide unit.