Portland Tribune: Police Passive with Homeless Population

Police passive with homeless population
Reposted from:
Police Passive with Homeless Population
Portland Tribune October 2015

Written by Peter Korn

Hayley Purdy can’t figure out why police officers bike, drive and walk by the social chaos she lives with on the North Park Blocks and do virtually nothing.

Throughout the summer Purdy and her neighbors documented the increasing disorder in their part of downtown. They watched the proliferation of illegal campsites and the garbage piling up and they’ve had a few angry confrontations with squatters over broad daylight drug dealing.

Daryl Turner says he knows why. The Portland Police union chief says street officers have been walking by situations involving illegal homeless camping and sidewalk obstruction when in years past they would have taken action. And that’s because city officials refuse to provide police with clear direction and support in dealing with the growing number of homeless people who violate city ordinances, according to Turner.

“We have never, ever, by any leadership, been given clear direction on how to deal with the homeless population on sidewalks and in parks,” Turner says. “Without clear direction, cops don’t know what the city wants.” Continue reading “Portland Tribune: Police Passive with Homeless Population”

Do You Know The Difference Between Policy and Law?

PortlandCityHall_640editedOne of the biggest questions we run into is “why isn’t law enforcement enforcing the law”. This is a great question but, also a complicated one. Herein lies the conundrum of law and policy. The State of Oregon’s legislature writes state laws. Local city government officials that “we” vote for and put into office set forth policy. Sometimes the law and policy collide when city officials take it upon themselves to set policy which overrides the law.

An example of this can be seen with state law prohibiting smoking in public places which took effect July 1, 2015. While the state law is pretty clear Portland City Council deemed the law unenforceable in their opinion and Amanda Fritz was quoted to say ‘peer pressure,’ not police, will enforce Portland policy. Therefore you will not see a reduction or impact whatsoever on smoking of any kind in public parks nor around play grounds like the one outside of Emerson School, nor will you see a reduction in the cigarette butts left behind.

Similar situations of policy trumping law would be site lie and inner city camping which are both illegal under State of Oregon Law. This particular issue was addressed in the Portland Tribune this week. City Hall has failed to give clear direction to police on what they can or cannot do.

“Assistant Police Chief Bob Day says he has made it clear to officers, for instance, that tents on public property should not be allowed. “We’ve talked about that on multiple occasions,” he says. However in recent discussions with Chief Day – he said “we can and should report illegal camping. That said, the police have to jump through several hoops to get people to move along – it may take 24 – 48 hours. And with understaffing this is not huge priority, but it can be done.

Therefore squeaky wheel gets the grease.” So, let’s get squeaking by calling non-emergency police to remove people from side walk blockage and from door ways. Tents, forts, sleeping bags are all illegal.

Additionally here are other state laws that we as a tax paying citizen have the right to demand be enforced:

1. Drug Free (School) Zones Under Oregon law. Under ORS 475.904 it is a Class A felony “for any person to manufacture or deliver a schedule I, II or III controlled substance within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary, secondary or career school attended primarily by minors.”

All that has to be shown to obtain a conviction is that the person had more drugs on them then for personal use. That is enough to show an “intent to deliver.” State v. Rodriguez-Barrera, 213 Or. App. 56, 60, 159 P.3d 1201, 1203 (2007) (“possession of a controlled substance in a quantity that is inconsistent with personal use, when accompanied by possession of materials commonly associated with delivery, is sufficient to establish possession with intent to deliver the contr olled substance.”)

2. Dog attack – Oregon law. ORS 609.090 allows the police to impound a dog if it is a “pubic nuisance,” which includes a dog that is deemed to be a “potentially dangerous dog” further defined as a dog that: . . . “Without provocation and while not on premises from which the keeper may lawfully exclude others, inflicts physical injury on . . . a domestic animal . . . .” ORS 609.035(5).

3. Illegal camping. There are no Oregon or federal cases stating that Portland’s “no camping” ordinance is unconstitutional. To the contrary, in Anderson v. City of Portland, No. CIV. 08-1447-AA, 2011 WL 6130598, at *4 (D. Or. Dec. 7, 2011), federal Judge Anna Brown rejected a host of constitutional arguments against the ordinance

Recently, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong found the same ordinance to be lawful and constitutional.

This summer our voices were heard by city hall and they took some action. The cooler weather has moved in and we are seeing less drifters and traveling gangs. But, this is the time when we need to push and make noise. If we don’t we run the risk of having another summer next year whereby the North Park Blocks are over-run and occupied by a street dwelling criminal element bent on affecting the quality of life in and around the park.

The only way that we will impact lasting change is by keeping our voices be heard. If we see any crime being committed it is our obligation as good neighbors to report it. If you are confused, which many are, by who to call when feel free to download the North Park Blocks Resource Sheet here  or consider the following:

If you witness or are subject to illegal behavior, please do not confront the perpetrator(s). PLEASE REPORT IT.

  • Crimes in progress or life threatening emergency: dial 911
  • Non-emergency (suspicious person/activity): Portland Police 503 823.3333
  • Park rule violations/drugs/alcohol/off leash dog/litter: Parks Ranger Dispatch 503 823.1637
  • Park maintenance issues: 503 823.4824
  • Illegally parked vehicles: Parking Patrol 503 823.5195
  • Excessive Noise Noise Control Office 503 823.7350
  • City/County Information and Referrals: 503 823.2781

Additionally, sign up to testify at the City Council meetings. Simply email Karla Moore via Karla.Moore-Love@portlandoregon.gov and let her know when you would like to provide the public testimony. City Council meetings are held on Wednesdays. Communications are the first item on the official agenda and they start at 9:30 a.m. (You may also fax at 503-823-4571 or call 503-823-4086 for more information).

Keep Portland Weird (But Safe)

PDX mounted police

This past summer the North Park Blocks experienced a dramatic rise in unlawful activity – traveling gangs, aggressive panhandlers, drugs, public sex, off-leash dog attacks. That situation was turned around when City Hall finally took notice and Portland Police stepped up their presence to enforce the law in the park.

We saw smart policing based on positive and supportive police interaction with citizens.  But increased police presence in the North Park Blocks required pulling scarce police resources from other Portland neighborhoods. Bottom line  – community-focussed policing is labor-intensive and Portland Police is understaffed to provide adequate safety city wide.

Statistics show that Portland Police is understaffed. The FBI national benchmark calls for 2.7 officers per 1000 residents and Portland has only 1.5. More stats here.

sign the petition

Public safety has made Portland one of America’s most livable cities. Our community needs our Police Bureau to take calls for service, investigate crimes, confront gang violence, and proactively engage with the public. Having enough police officers to manage these functions will keep Portland a great place to live.

Portland City Council must increase Police Bureau staffing levels to ensure there are enough police officers to meet the City’s public safety priorities.

The Portland Police Association has started a petition to Mayor Hales and Portland City Council. Send a message to City Council – Read more and sign the Petition.

pdx police stats
Click to enlarge graph

Enhanced Security in North Park Blocks


Officer Dave McCormick (L) Park Ranger Sam Sachs and Officer Nick Newby
Officer Dave McCormick (L) Park Ranger Sam Sachs and Officer Nick Newby

A big thank you to Mayor Hales and the Police Bureau for the increased Police presence in the North Park Blocks this week. We’re grateful our collective voice is being heard.

The Neighborhood response van was a much welcomed sight to see here yesterday and throughout the day.  (Especially in front of the Emerson School.) The officers who are patrolling the park are very professional and show calm assertive leadership.  While we appreciate the presence of the Park Rangers – the uniformed police officers have a powerful impact.

Today we observed Park Ranger Sam Sachs write up and exclude from the park for 30 days three people who were openly drinking in the park.  He was “diplomatic” throughout the incident and  assertive in adherence to park rules .

Your continued efforts and focus on park safety are greatly appreciated. This coordinated presence is a deterrent to criminal activities in the park and helps restore the North Park Blocks as a safe public space for all to enjoy.

Park Decay is Not a “Haves vs Have Nots” Issue

North Park Blocks Vandalism
North Park Blocks Vandalism

Mayor Hales & Commissioner Fritz –

I am one of the many concerned citizens actively trying to clean up the North Park Blocks of illegal activities.  I am writing to you both directly since I haven’t been able to attend the meetings led by Michelle Cardinal of R2C Group.

I am in a smaller minority within this committed group whose personal life & financial livelihood has been effected on a daily basis by the criminal element plaguing the North Park Blocks.  I reside in the neighborhood and also own a  business nearly.  I have seen first-hand, 24/7 the rapid decline of the area this past summer.

After hearing about Mayor Hales meeting this past Tuesday at City Hall, I am mainly concerned with Commissioner Fritz’ nonchalant attitude & comment to our problem stating “the parks are for everyone” then leaving only after staying for 20 minutes.  Has Fritz seen the “everyone” that concerns us as residents & business owners?  If not, I am attaching pictures again for her education. (See one above)

We are talking about not those unfortunate people that are truly homeless but criminals taking advantage of the system by choice, preying not only on tax-paying citizens & tourists but also on exactly these folks down on their luck trying to simply survive, regain their dignity & recover from their demons.

I find it insulting & read the undertones of Fritz’ comment that insinuates those of us voicing our concerns are simply the “haves” against the “have nots”.

Speaking for myself & my husband, we are deeply aware & concerned for the homeless not only in our neighborhood but citywide.  Each year since relocating here, we actively contribute to fundraisers for Central City Concern, Insight, Cascade Aids Project & Junior Achievement because these socially enlightened programs are one of the many wonderful things that inspired us to live in this wonderful city.

I recently read in The Portland Business Journal comments by Tripwire’s retiring CEO, Jim Johnson that sums up things perfectly – “The thing we run the risk on – Portland is a jewel & there are wonderful things in Portland – but we are tolerant of not-so-good behavior”.  Portland has rightfully become a destination for national & international tourist because of the natural splendor in the surrounding areas co-existing with urban flare of unique shopping, world-class food & of course beer.

Open Table has just named 7 of Portland’s restaurants in their Top 100 restaurants in the US & among them is Park Kitchen, one of my personal favorites.  Recently, I met a lovely couple visiting from Washington, DC shopping neighborhood & I recommended they eat at Park Kitchen to which they replied “we just passed the park & it is very scary during the day, we wouldn’t dream of going there at night for dinner”…my heart sank & I was speechless!  How do I defend that when I see the truth in that statement?  My heart breaks as a proud business owner trying to survive in an otherwise tough retail environment & also hearing that my fellow business owners have been struggling since the decline of the park in recent months.

If our mayor & city council member doesn’t see the economic implications in ignoring this problem, then I don’t think they deserve the position of leading a city that is growing & gaining worldwide recognition.  It is the hard-working businesses & residents of Portland that are paying taxes to fund social programs, upgrade municipal infrastructure & pay city employees salaries.

We need beefed up city police presence in the parks, the park rangers & out-sourced security teams like Pacific Patrol aren’t equipped to deal with the mess invading the area.  We will keep up the pressure through television & newspaper media, social media until our needs are addressed.  With Emerson School directly impacted by the NPB, the city is setting itself up for a legal nightmare if something tragic happens to a child.  One of the lesser but still very dangerous concerns I have been calling the city about over the past few months is travelers vandalizing lamp posts exposing electrical wires to charge their electronic equipment (I have included those images too).

I look forward to hearing from you on this urgent matter, thank you in advance!