PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As reports of gas theft continue in Portland, some residents are now putting up signs to warn thieves they will fire off gunshots if it means protecting the fuel in their tanks.
Posted just outside the cozy Devonshire apartment complex in Northeast Portland — where the average pump price remains well above $4 a gallon — are the words “STEAL GAS GET SHOT” and “ARMED TENANTS” in large red and yellow lettering.
According to tenants of the building off Northeast Glisan Street, the threatening messages were recently erected by the property manager in an effort to deter increased incidents of theft and break-ins at the complex.
“My catalytic converter was stolen last October,” tenant Israel Harden said. “I didn’t even call the police when it was stolen because, even if the police do come, they’ll just issue a trespassing charge, which is low priority.”
Harden said he has been a resident of the complex for almost a year, and beyond the break-ins, the property has also become a popular place for homeless individuals to trespass.
“I believe the signs are a deterrent, which I guess in some way could be considered taking the law into your own hands,” Harden explained. “I would not advocate for that, but I can see why the signs would be put up.”
However, the Portland Police Bureau told KOIN 6 News they strongly discourage residents from taking matters of the law into their own hands as the outcome could be dangerous or even deadly.
PPB Sergeant Kevin Allen spoke to KOIN 6 News about rising gas thefts in March.
“I always caution people about confronting criminals in the act because there can be an unpredictable reaction,” he said. “We’ve even had cases where people have chased the thief down the street and tried to take them into custody. And that can be a really dangerous prospect.”
While Allen acknowledged due to police staffing issues, gas theft and other lower-level crimes often do not get the attention the bureau feels they deserve, he told KOIN 6 News intercepting an incident on behalf of law enforcement could have serious consequences.
“There’s been a few cases where people have interrupted gas thieves conducting this crime and then there’s a big puddle of gas on the ground,” Allen said. “If that was to be ignited, somebody could be killed or seriously injured.”
He said he hopes people won’t try to take their frustration out on a suspected thief and risk getting themselves hurt.
“We know sometimes people who commit these crimes are armed with weapons and we just don’t know if they’re willing to use them,” Allen said.
While Harden told KOIN 6 News he does not agree with the message of the signs on his building, and even called them “ridiculous,” he said he has noticed a drop in thefts since the writing has been on the wall.
“Since the signs were put up, I haven’t seen anybody sleeping in the stairwells or in the parking spots,” Harden said. “The dumpster continues to be an issue. But as far as I know, no other neighbors have had their cars broken into or gas stolen.”