PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Businesses on Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland say vandalism, break-ins, theft and even armed attacks are forcing them to hire armed security.

Business owners say the vandalism started during the pandemic and during the riots in 2020, but never really stopped.

Emily Ballis, who manages Arc’Teryx in the area, says those issues ramped up in April of 2022.

Ballis explained that Arc’Teryx is about to replace a graffitied window and noted that theft has also been a problem. They’ve had to replace a lock four times because people keep breaking it.

They made the decision to hire armed security after a worker was confronted earlier in May.

“Then middle of May, a gentleman came in an pulled a knife on one of my employees,” Ballis said. “I called 911, quite a long response time, I understand they’re understaffed.”

Sonia Bellini, who owns Bellini’s, told KOIN 6 News “it’s not safe, I’m not safe.”

“This last six months it’s gotten even worse. I’ve had my windows smashed, I’ve been broken into, I’ve come to see homeless in the corner defecating, it’s gotten quite bad,” Bellini added.

She blames the new meth experts believe is now in Portland, as well as the surge of fentanyl and other drugs in the area, for these issues but she says city commissioners are failing Portlanders for not getting these issues under control.

“The whole defund the police just made us more vulnerable,” Bellini said.

Meanwhile, Portland police said over the weekend they were stretched thin responding to several shootings which injured people across the city and killed one person. Police told KOIN 6 News that “lower priority” 911 calls may have had to wait longer for responses because of that.

Eric Joseph, who lives in the area, told KOIN 6 News he understands that homicides and shootings take priority over some of the problems business owners are dealing with, but he’s still concerned about what he sees.

“If, people are vandalizing windows, then they break a window, then they go into store and steal, and they know that responses aren’t happening they won’t be held accountable, they get more brazen,” Joseph said.

The businesses told KOIN 6 News they are forming a group to try to share information and make the neighborhood safer. They say so far there are 20-30 group members.

KOIN 6 News reached out to police about these concerns, and they said they are working on getting a response.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Commissioner Hardesty said “along NW 23rd and throughout the City, our small businesses have struggled while facing break ins, theft, and vandalism. It breaks my heart as these are difficult enough times for small businesses in Portland as we continue to recover from the ongoing pandemic. It’s my hope that Portland Police Bureau will be able to hold the perpetrators accountable and I will certainly meet with those effected. Every constituent that reaches out to my office requesting a meeting is told by my staff that I am usually booked 4-6 weeks in advance due to the amount of meetings I take on.”