PORTLAND, Ore. — As interim director of the non-profit Oregon Walks, Zachary Lauritzen has one goal and one goal only.
"Keeping people safe on our streets," Lauritzen said.
He said it starts with good, solid infrastructure. Then, he said, comes the enforcement.
"We think automated enforcement is a number one first step, so red light enforcement and speeding enforcement through cameras, and then we think there is absolutely a role for human enforcement, too," he said.
The human enforcement is important work that has been missing in Portland since February 2021. That is when the Portland Police Bureau's traffic division was disbanded in order to help precincts struggling with staffing.
On Tuesday, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell announced that he is bringing back the traffic detail.
"It'll be limited, smaller than it was before, but we'll have 10 motorcycle officers, two officers in cars and two sergeants on an afternoon shift," Lovell said.
The officers will be in high-crash areas of the city, looking for dangerous driving behaviors like speeding and driving while intoxicated, among other things.
The announcement could not come at a better time. Last year, 68 people died in traffic-related crashes in Portland. 32 of the 68 were pedestrians.
"That 68 is a high since 1987 and that 32 pedestrian fatalities is a high since 1948," Sgt. Ty Engstrom said. "We all live, work, vacation or commute in this city and it's our responsibility to help make sure your roadways are a little safer."
Lauritzen appreciates the return of traffic division. He is a firm believer that enforcement plays a pivotal role in safer streets.
"There are people who don't follow the rules of the road at all," Lauritzen said. "They're incredibly dangerous and we need officers out there enforcing the rules of the road."