PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As downtown Portland continues to be the source of national controversy, Mayor Ted Wheeler is hoping to contract a California-based nonprofit for outreach patrols in the city center.
“Urban Alchemy is proud of the work we have done in collaboration with the City of Portland and look forward to the potential of expanding our services.,” said Kirkpatrick Tyler, Urban Alchemy’s chief of community and government affairs. “At this time, we are actively discussing the scope of the work for this initiative with the City.”
According to the mayor’s office, their contract with Urban Alchemy would create various deescalation and ambassador patrols. However, it has not been decided where those patrols would be nor how many would operate.
The mayor’s office says they want an emergency procurement contract as part of an emergency ordinance to make that happen. However, a timeline has yet to be set.
“We held a summit of the hospitality industry about three weeks ago in which we heard many concerns about incidents employees of hotels and restaurants were facing, that visitors were facing – many of them related to the fentanyl crisis we know we have on our streets,” said Jon Isaacs, the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs-Portland Metro Chamber.
The proposed contract is one of two efforts to bring a greater security presence to downtown. Another would expand downtown Portland’s Clean and Safe District, bringing 24/7 unarmed security to what would become a hotel of a safety district near the shopping and hotel areas.
“Essentially it covers the core of downtown that we know we have the highest volume of visitor traffic, tourist traffic, hotels and restaurants,” Isaacs said.
This week, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance to direct city staff to advocate for the state legislature to pass new laws to criminalize the public consumption of controlled substances – not just alcohol, as it is currently described in state law.
City Council has also approved double-pay in overtime for Portland police officers who volunteer to help with their patrol efforts.
Wheeler’s plan comes as Portland police has struggled to maintain patrols at its central precinct: The bureau should have 15 to 17 officers for the early evening hours and between 12 and 16 from night until morning, but the bureau currently reports there are times with as few as 2 officers for the entire area.
“We know it will have a significant positive impact just on the environment and feeling of safety in that part of downtown,” Isaacs said.
With the city, county, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, and Trimet contributing $800,000, combined with $200,000 of private funding, it would fund one year of the added security presence.
“We want to make sure that that presence, the things we need in place to keep downtown Portland on the path to recovery, is there 24/7,” Isaacs said.