Members of a confrontational community group are, allegedly, taking the law into their own hands. According a Facebook event created by the group, the Montavilla Initiative, members will be patrolling homeless camps for stolen bike parts with a police officer next week.
The Montavilla Initiative is a unofficial neighborhood group that purports to be concerned with community safety, but has been accused of being a vigilante group that harasses homeless people—most recently in the pages of the Los Angeles Times. The group has previously worked closely with members of the Portland Police Association, and was a major player in last year’s unsuccessful push to convert the abandoned Wapato Jail into a homeless shelter. In September, members of the group filmed individuals who were entering a syringe exchange site and domestic violence shelter, with the stated aim of documenting their “bad behavior” to share with police.
The Montavilla Initiative is unrelated to the Montavilla Neighborhood Association, which does not support the splinter group's motives.
A public Facebook event page created by the Montavilla Initiative advertises a chance for members of the group, as well as residents of Montavilla and nearby neighborhoods, to meet with PPB Officer Dave Sanders on Wednesday, January 9. The event description says Sanders, who heads up the Portland Police Bike Theft Task Force, “will walk with neighbors through a few camp sites which have been storing and chopping up stolen bicycles.”
The event page also says that only those who RSVP to the event—and, presumably, are approved by the Montavilla Initiative—will be given the location.
However, a statement the Mercury received from PPB spokesperson Christopher Burley suggests that Montavilla Initiative’s description of the event might be misleading. Burley said that Sanders has no plans to walk attendees through houseless camps in the neighborhood.
“This session is to be an educational in-classroom opportunity to learn about bike theft prevention and create community dialogue,” Burley said. “Officer Sanders contacted the Montavilla Initiative regarding the Facebook post earlier today.”
As of Friday afternoon, the Facebook event’s language had not been changed. Additionally, two weeks ago the Montavilla Initiative told a commenter on its public page that “we will actually be walking into a camp or two to look at stolen bikes and getting tips and strategies as we walk.”
This suggests that either the Montavilla Initiative leaders were mistaken about the intended purpose of the event, or that the plans for the event changed at some point between then and now.