Portland, OR – Frustrated business owners are calling on city and county leaders to do more to combat rising property crime in Portland — and they have plenty of advice on where to start.
“There are a lot of ‘career criminals’ breaking into businesses and wreaking havoc, and really, we need to catch these people, we really need to prosecute these people,” says business coach and founder Sarah Shaoul. Advocacy group Bricks Need Mortar.
Portland business owners face ‘make or break’ holidays as crime surges after pandemic, riots
According to the Portland Police Department, property crimes in Portland rose 16% between January and October of this year compared to the same period in 2021.
Shaoul acknowledged the shortage of public defenders in Multnomah County, which has led to the dismissal of hundreds of cases. But she said she was tired of “opportunistic criminals” vandalizing and stealing businesses with impunity.
“When someone is caught on camera a dozen times driving their vehicle into a business, I think it’s time we do something about it,” she said.
Between the pandemic, riots, rising crime and a pervasive homelessness crisis, entrepreneurs are fighting an uphill battle to keep their businesses in business, says Event Cosmetics owner Katherine Sealy.
“Safety is everyone’s number one priority,” she said. “And I think a lot of the surrounding areas … still don’t feel safe coming to the inner city.”
FED UP Portland business owners offer solutions to rising crime:
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While Portland’s historic social justice protests have given the city an anti-cop reputation, Seeley, Sauer and other business owners and residents say they want to see more law enforcement out in force.
“We would like to see more police officers protecting our small businesses or storefronts,” Shaoul said. “We would like to see police present in time for these calls and these break-ins.”
Police response times reached levels not seen in at least a decade, According to PPB data, In October, high priority calls waited an average of more than 20 minutes for a response. That same month, the average wait time for medium priority callers was more than 51 minutes.
According to PPB, many factors affect response times, including travel times, call volumes and staffing levels, which are slowly increasing.
“Without the police, I think the city should look for other resources to help,” Shaoul said. “Over a year ago we had a proposal that we have patrols, put lights on buildings.”
Shaoul suggested the city use other agencies for such patrols, such as the Portland Department of Transportation, which handles street maintenance, parking enforcement and other services.
“Let’s get them out there, let’s have headlights on the sides of their vehicles, let’s drive around,” she said. “A lot of it is just preventive. You know, just keeping an eye on these businesses to prevent them from being hacked repeatedly.”
A clothing store that closed permanently this year after its 15th burglary posted a note on its door that read: “Our city is at risk. Small businesses (and large businesses) cannot Our city conducts business in its current state. We offer no protection or recourse against crimes that go unpunished.”
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Sealy said she has seen many business owners “close their doors for good” and hopes that in the new year more will follow suit.
“I think the city needs to work with us to do this to make sure this isn’t just a one-sided effort,” Seeley said.
To view the interview with Shaoul and Sealy, click here.