PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As bike patrol officers make a big drug bust along encampments in the North Park blocks, residents and visitors hope it’s a first step in making the area safer.
However, some say more needs to be done. Families told KOIN 6 News they want to bring their kids out to the park blocks and playground but with drug activity just feet away, it’s hard to always feel safe.
Visiting from Washington, Rovell Thomas took his kids out to soak up a beautiful spring day in the Pearl District. But when he first got to his hotel, the surrounding tents were immediately on his radar.
“I brought the kids out for a few days. We first noticed when we showed up to the hotel, there was like four tents set up to the south of us,” said Thomas. “Later in the night I went out, there was some activity out. They had a couple gentlemen just hanging outside, not really a safe area.”
He says later, they did start to see officers walking through the area — a presence that made him feel comfortable. In fact, PPB’s bike patrol spent much of Thursday afternoon in the North Park blocks after complaints of what they call, “rampant drug dealing.”
At least one person was arrested, and two others cited in a raid, yielding a .22 caliber and a stolen iPad, as well as heroin, hydrocodone, cocaine and counterfeit Xanax pills likely containing fentanyl.
“Later on in the evening, we did see a few officers on the ground, doing foot patrols and stuff. That will make a difference. Anything to change the normal routine,” said Thomas. “Maybe the foot patrol, if they stay with it, it might clear it up a little bit.”
Meanwhile, one parent who wished to remain anonymous in order to keep her kids safe, says she lives in the area and often tries to get her young children out to the park. However, she says there’s more that needs to be done for it to feel safe than just drug busts.
“There’s still lots of things you see like needles on the floor, the baggies, the bathrooms or loos or whatever, that’s kind of difficult because there’s always people using in them,” the parent told KOIN. “It’s difficult to have so much drugs and stuff in the area. I understand with people being homeless and stuff like that, it’s difficult to find resources for getting clean.”
Now clean and sober, she empathizes with the homeless experiencing problems with drugs. She hopes these efforts by officers will remain peaceful and not become an abuse of power.
“A lot of the homeless people or people using get harassed, so I don’t want to see that, but I definitely do want to see, even if it’s more people cleaning the parks out,” said the parent. “They’re kind of out of it and you can tell, but violence isn’t helping anything.”
Parents told KOIN 6 News they would also like to see these patrols offer up resources for housing and getting clean.
“There’s definitely other ways to go about it peacefully, trying to remove people from situations or have more people try to connect them with resources,” the parent added. “If you’re going to help them, help them. But don’t put them in a worse position than they’re already in.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to the Portland Police Central Bike Squad. While they can’t go into detail about how they operate these patrols, they try to go into these areas as often as they can, and hope removing drugs and disrupting distribution will prevent overdose deaths, especially as fentanyl becomes more prevalent.