Police: Homeless camp cleared due to criminal activity reports

Multnomah County

No one arrested

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police cleared out a homeless camp on Tuesday morning, reportedly due to criminal activity.

Lt. Greg Pashley with the Portland Police Bureau says officers conducted an abatement at Chapman Square, which is carried out in the event of criminal and unlawful activity. An abatement was first conducted in the area on April 4, but Lt. Pashley said there have been several events involving crime and arrests connected to those living in the area since then.

The PPB said four incidents have taken place in the last week alone.

Officials said this spot in Chapman Square became a danger to the community after someone in the camp was arrested for chasing another person with a knife. A few days later, a man looking for food in the camp was hit over the head with a stick.

The problems kept mounting, officials said.

“Around that same time frame there was someone in mental crisis over there who needed help and the way the people in the camp dealt with it was to chase him out of there with a baseball bat,” PPB Lt. Jacob Jenson told KOIN 6 News. “We showed up and figured out he was in mental crisis so we took him to the hospital to get him some help.”

Although posts on social media claimed the houseless residents were given no notice of the clearing, police say they were “provided reasonable time to gather belongings before a City contracted vendor arrived to remove property.”

PPB did not disclose how much time they considered to be “reasonable.”

Despite the large police presence seen at Chapman Square, no arrests were made during the abatement. However, one vehicle was towed and one juvenile runaway was given a ride home.

This abatement comes shortly after the City of Portland announced it is handling homeless camp cleanups differently, with a focus on clearing tent groups that pose safety or health threats.

The City announced that it will be increasing the number of urban homeless camps they remove for camps in what they are calling a “more assertive approach.” In addition to clearing camps that pose health and safety risks, the revamped initiative also targets camps that block sidewalks, transit stops, public restrooms and building entrances.

According to Mark Alejos, a spokesperson with the City’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, their organization provides garbage removal, hygiene access, resource referral and job opportunities in addition to removing the campsites. 

A City of Portland spokesperson says Tuesday’s clearing was not in connection with the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program. They said the program provides at least 48 hours’ notice to affected residents before they clear a campsite.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty recently said she will be keeping a watchful eye to make sure the city doesn’t engage in inappropriately aggressive sweeps outside the parameters of the new protocols

KOIN 6 News has reached out to Commissioner Hardesty for comment about Tuesday’s abatement but has not yet heard back. This story will be updated once new information is available.

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