Upwards of three dozen neighbors and business owners representing almost a dozen neighborhoods and business districts from Hollywood to Parkrose met at the Central Northeast Neighbors office in early August to discuss concerns over the adverse effect some homeless people are having on businesses and residents. After meeting for just over an hour, they decided to ask city officials to attend a future meeting in a larger venue to get something done about the situation. The situation is similar to what happened in Laurelhurst earlier this summer, when neighbors petitioned the city for a “safe zone ordinance.”
The CNN session was convened by Northeast Neighborhoods’ Public Safety Action Committee. Meg Juarez, Office of Neighborhood Involvement crime prevention coordinator, urged the group to include those who advocate for the homeless and affordable housing along with those adversely impacted by homeless crime and misdemeanors.
Portland Police officers Anthony Zoeller and Bob Boylan of the neighborhood response team and North Precinct Captain Jamie Resch explained how their response to crimes has been hit hard by a “staffing decrease of several hundred.” On the bright side, Resch said 94 officers are in training and will beef up the force a year after graduation when they can act independently. Resch noted that officers have been conducting sweeps of areas where unregistered vehicles are parked. Portland’s Bureau of Transportation has also hired six new parking enforcement officers.
One neighbor characterized the homeless who make trouble for neighbors and businesses as “resource-resistant.” Neighbors cited fears of fires on Rocky Butte during the unusually dry summer, defecation and urination on private property, and objects such as lawn mowers and garden tools stolen from backyards.
Suggestions to assist police in dealing with problems included treating those who are homeless and engage in chronic criminal activity as gangs.
“Criminal behavior that negatively impacts the community needs to be addressed,” said one attendee.
Many decried a “hands-off policy that resulted in a lack of response” and urged finding miscreants who refuse to accept help from the scores of social service agencies offering it and prosecuting them for their crimes. One idea was to dedicate 10 percent of every city bureau budget back to the Portland Police Bureau to fund law enforcement.
It was agreed that service providers and homeless advocates needed to be brought to the table to engage with plans to deter crime. Representing Venture Portland, Angie Jenkins, president of the Parkrose Business Association, presented a letter that businesses sent city officials documenting homeless crime concerns and calling for action.
The meeting ended on a note of “get businesses coordinated, get residents coordinated and address the problem, don’t move it.”
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for September 13 at CNN’s office, 4415 N.E. 87th Ave., and volunteers stepped forward to seek participation by appropriate social agencies and Governor Kate Brown’s office.