At a meeting of business owners on August 22, it was announced that District Attorney Mike Schmidt has assigned a Deputy District Attorney to the St. Johns community. The action was taken in response to a “90-Day Reset Plan” proposed by St. Johns Business Boosters at a March 2023 meeting with Schmidt and city commissioners Carmen Rubio and Rene Gonzalez. The March meeting was organized in response to an epidemic of vandalism and other crimes.
The new Deputy DA, Aileen Santoyo, was introduced by Senior Deputy DA, Mariel Mota. The newly appointed Deputy DA said she has juvenile and mental health experience. She will have an office in the neighborhood and be onsite one day a week where people can come to talk. “I will be here for the entire community not just the business owners,” she noted.
When asked what the general role of a DA is, Mota replied, “I issue cases, go to trial, judge whether a case needs more evidence. I charge cases from minor to serious.” As for the DA’s role within the North Portland community she added, “We want to hear your concerns. We can’t do it by ourselves. It’s about relationship building.” Ms. Santoyo emphasized that, “We want to hear from you what is wrong. We want to collaborate.”
Of particular concern to the business owners are repeat offenders, those who break windows repeatedly for instance. When asked what tools the DAs will use to address this issue, Mota said they will call on Neighborhood Response Team officers (NRTs) and recommended the use of No Contact orders brought against the repeat offenders because officers are required to arrest those who violate them. She added that, “Repeat offenders can be stopped by arrest. It’s inconvenient to them. Their stuff gets stolen.”
When asked how to deal with persons experiencing mental health crises, Mota recommended calling Project Respond, a mobile mental health crisis response team. She noted that they get calls from around the city and may not respond immediately.