PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – For the first time since the start of the pandemic, a team of officers have shut down streets to car traffic in the Old Town neighborhood.

Friday marks the official return of the police entertainment detail — designed to improve the safety of the Old Town amid high crime rates.

Some business owners told KOIN 6 News they have been calling for the return of this shift for years and say they couldn’t be happier with the return of the entertainment detail.

Chef Naji Bouhmid, who owns Kasbah’s Moroccan Café on the corner of NW Second and Davis, told KOIN 6 News he has seen crime go up and down in the Entertainment District but says businesses continue bear the brunt of it.

“It’s a shame when you are from the same city and you can’t discover this part of town,” Bouhmid said. “Drugs, drunk people, mental illness, all that stuff. It’s happening all over.”

Although Old Town is one of the smallest Portland neighborhoods in size, police data shows the area has the fifth-highest rate of shootings with 34 incidents reported between January and August of 2022.

That data also shows Old Town has the highest homicide rate in Portland from July 2021 until July 2022 with 10 of the city’s 91 homicides having been reported there.

To help address the problem, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced on Tuesday the city would be bringing back police entertainment detail, with the goal that it might also help bring back patrons and make the area safer for business and pedestrians alike.  

“Recent data shows us that Old Town suffers from a high level of gun violence, and this violence often peaks during Friday and Saturday evenings. Under my direction, the Portland Police Bureau will have the authority to close streets,” Wheeler said.

In an effort to reduce crime and quicken police response times in the area, KOIN 6 News is told a team of six officers and one sergeant can now close off streets to car traffic between NW First and NW Fifth Avenue, as well as W Burnside through NW Everett St. beginning around 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Come down here and enjoy a drink. We have more cops now and we are so happy, you know. It’s a start to go back to normal,” Bouhmid told KOIN 6 News.

The return of the detail comes as a relief for local business owners like Bouhmid who says he hopes it will encourage more people to come out and enjoy all that Old Town has to offer.

KOIN 6 News also spoke with the sergeant in charge of the new detail, who says the team is excited to help bring back some vibrancy to the Entertainment District.