PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Police Bureau moved in on Wednesday to clear out and board up the Washington Center building in downtown Portland, which officials say has become an open-air drug dealing site.
Photos posted to the PPB Central Bike Squad’s Instagram story show officers outside the vacant shopping center at 401 Southwest Washington Street with a caption stating “Today is the day. Clearing out and boarding up 4/Washington.”
Subsequent videos show armed law enforcement officials scanning the building through an opened door, then inside walking through the graffitied and littered halls and rooms.
Police described the inside of the building as filled with litter, mold and feces. It was also a place where people were living. Officers had to use battering rams to break down locked doors to see if there were squatters still living inside the former retail and office building.
Shortly before 10 a.m., PPB said officials from the City of Portland and Portland Fire & Rescue’s unsafe building team were inspecting the center.
Following a walkthrough of the building, officials began boarding up doors and alcoves to prevent future entrance.
In recent times, dozens of people have been seen congregated outside the spot openly dealing and using drugs. Despite repeated arrests, the dealers would return to the site.
On Tuesday, KOIN 6 reported that those concerns led Mayor Ted Wheeler to order around-the-clock patrol around the building. In a statement from his office, a spokesperson for Wheeler said the mayor and PPB were bolstering resources in the area due to “extreme conditions.”
Gov. Kotek called the open-air drug market at the Washington Center building unacceptable. She said she wants to expand the state police academy so cities like Portland can speed up the recruitment of new officers to get more of them out on the streets.
In a 12-hour span on March 31, police said nearly a dozen overdoses believed to be fentanyl-related were reported around downtown Portland, three of which resulted in death. Following those overdose calls, the bureau told KOIN 6 there’s been a surge in overdose calls across the city.
“I want to express my gratitude to the many people who have been working to bring solutions to this site. These efforts required close coordination among the community and numerous city bureaus and offices to reclaim a private property that has posed significant safety challenges downtown,” said Mayor Wheeler. “I am continuing to restaff our police bureau and maintain the positive momentum we gained here. I am working closely with the governor to increase capacity at the state academy to get our recently hired police officers out on the streets more quickly. We are also pleased to be working with Oregon State Police to address other safety issues in the community, including street takeovers, DUII investigations and general traffic enforcement. These strong partnerships are critical to revitalizing our city.”