Homeless deterrent? 7-Eleven using high-pitched noise

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 7-Eleven in downtown Portland is a hot spot for homeless to camp — employees say sometimes up to a dozen at a time.

A homeless person's cart outside the 7-Eleven store downtown Portland, Jan. 31, 2019. (KOiN)

For years, the store, located at the corner of Southwest Taylor and 4th Street, played classical music outside through speakers to try and deter the homeless from sleeping there overnight. 

“But it didn’t work, there were always homeless people outside,” Madhur Sharma, the store’s manager, told KOIN 6 News.

Sharma said the violence, drug use, theft and harassment stemming from the homeless people camping out has hit business hard.

“They’re shooting stuff into their veins, sitting right outside on the sidewalk,” Sharma said.

Here’s a list of the issues the store has encountered with homeless people, according to the manager:

  • A lot of violence (among homeless and targeted at customers)
  • Homeless camping all day and night
  • Open drug use — shooting up and smoking marijuana
  • Trash and drug paraphernalia being left along the store’s entrance
  • Theft — homeless reportedly come in and steal from the store
  • Police don’t get there in time, so no one gets caught
  • Harassing customers coming in and out for money
  • Homeless urinating along the store’s exterior property
  • Overall, bad for business

So now, with the new property ownership — Standard Insurance, the landlords switched to playing high-pitched sounds — and apparently, it’s kind of working. 

“They’re still one or two people here or sleeping in the night, but instead of seven or eight,” Sharma said.

Bob Speltz, a spokesperson for Standard Insurance, provided KOIN with the following statement:

“The safety of our employees, tenants and guests continues to be our top priority. We have been working with the City, the Portland Police Bureau and Downtown Clean & Safe to determine how best to deal with the persistent threat posed by public drug use, menacing behavior and other criminal activity at the corner of SW 4th Avenue and Taylor Street. This ongoing issue concerns a small group of individuals well known to law enforcement who have created a regular health and safety threat at and around this street corner. We have temporarily turned off the sound but will continue to address the criminal behavior that occurs daily at this location.”

To also help with the homeless issue, 7-Eleven has put up a sign outside saying:

Dear Guests,
For your safety and that of our neighboring community, we kindly ask that you say “No” to panhandlers. Thank you for keeping your local 7-Eleven and its community safe and clean.
Thank you, 
7-Eleven Management
A sign has been put outside the 7-Eleven store downtown Portland to remind guests to say no to panhandlers, Jan. 31, 2019. (KOIN)

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office provided the following statement to KOIN 6 News:

Business owners have rights when it comes to their property. But when it comes to public space, everyone – regardless of their socioeconomic status, has rights as well. If a crime is taking place – that’s a different story. Then people should call 911.
We recognize that some areas are more challenging than others when it comes these concerns. This is one reason why the Mayor and his team have been advocating for more community policing – one that focuses on compassionate communication and connection to services.
 
We’re balancing the right of people to use public spaces with the rights of businesses who want to create safe spaces for their customers, here’s what we –  including the Joint Office — have been doing to help homeless people get back on their feet:
We’ve increased the number of high-quality shelter beds. We’ve enhanced our shelter capacity — by connecting more people with the services they need. Expanded investment in housing assistance in help the chronically homeless. We’ve been building long term, high quality, service rich shelters to help people. We’ve increased funding for camp clean-ups. We’ve increased funding overall for livability – which helps clean dozens of more sites a year. More officers are trained to help people with mental illness.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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