PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A survey from Bricks Need Mortar depicts what many local entrepreneurs have already been saying: Portland’s small businesses have become a prime target for vandalism and break-ins.

Bricks Need Mortar, a Portland-based organization that advocates for small businesses, recently released its annual We Are Here survey that asks business owners to share data on their businesses.

Out of the 800 small businesses included on Bricks Need Mortar’s directory, 118 responded to the organization’s latest survey.

Survey results from January 2022 revealed that 63% of the respondents had endured vandalism or break-ins at their businesses in the previous 18 months. The latest survey, which focused on just 12 months in 2022, shows that that number had grown to 79% in a smaller time frame.

Of that 79%, about 62% answered that their business had been vandalized or broken into on more than one occasion.

“I think the reason why is that there has been impunity,” BNM Founder Sarah Shaoul said. “Those who will do these things realize that they can get away with it… When a community is bright and positive, it inspires more of that — and when you see broken windows and boarded up storefronts and graffiti and that kind of thing, it inspires more of that.”

According to the survey, just 2% of the small businesses that had been vandalized received assistance from their landlord or property management.

Shaoul says that the Portland area has many forward-thinking commercial property owners who are supportive of their tenants, but some commercial property investors are accustomed to seeing 3% year-over-year increases in their investments.

The cost of building repair, combined with the overall cost-of-living increase and pre-existing expenses for business owners, has already driven a number of Portland businesses to close their doors for good — and other businesses could follow suit if the trend continues.

One survey respondent said that their employees were struggling to live in Portland with a $20 per hour wage, and another said that their biggest challenge in the first quarter of 2023 would be the decrease in foot traffic due to constant vandalism.

“Our small businesses are the economic engine of our city and our state and it will take creative, new thinking to ensure that our small businesses continue to positively contribute to our economy and community,” Shaoul said. “This will take State and Federal lawmakers addressing livability and supporting small businesses with supplemental benefits for their employees including healthcare, transportation and housing.”

BNM says there are positive signs of growth among some business owners who have reported boosts in revenue, but the organization would love for policymakers to further help the small business industry.