Businesses, residents upset over aggressive homeless population - KPTV - FOX 12

Businesses, residents upset over aggressive homeless population in Hawthorne neighborhood

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Businesses in the Hawthorne neighborhood are unhappy with what they consider an increasingly confrontational homeless population in the area, with reports of aggressive panhandling, vandalism and even death threats.

"It's scary for people. Because you have families here. I have a little girl," Matthew Stimley, who works at Veloce Bicycles on Hawthorne Boulevard, said. “Who knows what goes on at night. I think that's when a lot of the problems go down.”

Stimley said he was recently confronted by an aggressive transient, who spat at him after he said "Hello."

In another recent incident, a Hawthorne business owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, said a man on the street was loudly confronting customers, shouting at employees and making threats of physical harm.

"It's a lot of unstable people," Stimley said. "I'm no mental health expert, but I can see some people have issues."

Those issues, in particular, present a problem for Portland police officers. According to the department's policy and state law, an officer can't take a person suffering from a mental health condition anywhere unless they're suspected of committing a crime or are considered a danger to themselves or others.

Timur Sipra, who runs a food cart on Hawthorne, said he believes police officers are doing the best they can but also wishes something could be done about the increase in confrontations.

"I don't want my customers being harassed. I don't want people to be harassed," he said. “The mayor has had maybe something to do with that. He's told the police to be extra nice to them. Perhaps they can all go stay at the mayor's house.”

Some Hawthorne businesses have discussed the possibility of pooling their resources to hire a private security company to patrol the neighborhood.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales recently announced a reversal in the city's camping policy, which currently allows people to camp on city property between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Hales said the policy, though well-intentioned, was difficult for police officers to interpret.

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