PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Heaps of garbage, containing broken furniture, used tarps, old appliances, dirty needles, and more can be seen lining Portland’s roads and public spaces on any given drive through the metro area.

As the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent rise in homelessness has worsened the issue of garbage being dumped on public property, Metro’s RID Patrol cleanup services are answering the call to ‘take out the trash.’

“Nobody would dispute that this year started poorly for public garbage in greater Portland,” stated Metro Council President Lynn Peterson, during her State of the Region address. “Because of pandemic impacts, we were forced to cut some of our RID Patrol crews for the 2020-21 fiscal year and just got new crews up and running in July 2021. Now, we have 6 crews on the streets, and the results are phenomenal.”

She continued, “In the last 6 months, more than 418 tons of waste have been picked up by the RID Patrol – as much as two Boeing 747s. That’s included 1,800 tires, 845 shopping carts, 380 mattresses and 300 couches. In November, our crews cleaned 300 sites.”

Metro’s RID Patrol is tasked with cleaning up abandoned trash and investigating evidence and eye-witness accounts of trash dump incidents on public and private property. The Patrol is made up of three crews, one with Metro and two with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, who work to investigate, and issue fines and citations for illegal trash dumps throughout the region.

“January was an incredibly busy month for our RID Patrol team as they cleaned over 400 reported sites,” a Metro spokesperson told KOIN 6 News. “Response time from report called in to clean-up is down to 3 business days, when it was over 70 at the height of the pandemic.”

Real-time metrics illustrating clean-up status updates can be viewed at Metro’s data dashboard.

According to data released in April of 2021, Metro helped clean up 2,674 illegal dumpsites in 2020.

Map of Dump Sites Cleaned by Metro in 2020 (Courtesy Metro)

To ensure the safety of the community, RID Patrol has encouraged residents to ‘report rather than confront,’ those who they believe may be in the act of illegally discarding debris. The team warned the public not to relocate unwanted items to public property, as that could warrant a citation.

Instead, the council encourages the community to take note of the vehicle license plate number, make, and model, along with details regarding the dumped items and location. Metro’s RID Patrol can use this information to further investigate.

“One of the ways we come into contact with people experiencing homelessness is through Metro’s RID Patrol. These are the trained crews that clean up dumped garbage in public spaces across our region,” Peterson stated. “But the RID Patrol also works with Oregonians experiencing homelessness to help manage their garbage pickups, because everyone deserves a sanitary place to live. Often, our RID Patrol works with trained outreach workers who help connect people to the services they need to find permanent supportive housing.”

Metro’s Bag Program (Courtesy Metro)

To help reduce trash and lower garbage-service barriers for those experiencing homelessness, the RID Patrol rolled the Metro Bag Program in 2018. For details on this program click here.

The RID Patrol team said the best way to tackle the issue of unwanted trash dumps is by preventing it.

“If you plan to offer furniture, tires, construction materials or other items to the community, do not abandon them on street corners for “free.” Instead, keep items in your yard and list them on reuse sites such as freecycle.org or craigslist.org,” Metro stated.

The agency continued, “Hire only licensed businesses or haulers to take your garbage and bulky items. Get the person’s name and license plate number, pay by check instead of cash, and get a receipt. If your garbage ends up dumped, you may be subject to fines.”

The public can report dumped garbage to the RID Patrol at 503-234-3000 or at their website.

The agency said the local city nuisance or code enforcement departments can tackle issues regarding abandoned vehicles or properties with large stockpiles of trash and debris.

According to Metro, trash buildups from homeless camps in Portland can be reported online here, and camps in Gresham may be reported here.

A full list of Metro’s RID Patrol commonly asked questions and answers can be found at this link.