North Portland neighbors want street racing to stop, as police bureau resources are stretched thin

Published: May. 3, 2022 at 10:54 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - North Portland residents are worried about dangerous and bothersome street racing, including a large event Sunday evening, during which drivers were doing donuts in the intersection of Columbia and Penninsular.

Sunday’s event happened one day after a deadly crash in the same spot, where police say a reckless driver hit another car, killing himself; everyone else is OK.

Portland police brought back street racing missions now that the weather’s nicer to hopefully deter these kinds of events.

Police said officers responded Sunday and did the best they could to address it with the resources they had. They were only taking priority calls at that time because of events happening at Laurelhurst Park.

As Chief Chuck Lovell shared Tuesday, the bureau is short-staffed and this is essentially a crowd control issue, requiring a lot of officers.

“Please know it’s important to us to get a handle on this but we’re going to do this work in a safe manner, and it’s not always really feasible for one or two officers to go into a huge crowd like that and have any hope of successfully defusing that activity,” Chief Lovell said.

Nina, who saw it play out from their house and called 911, said they and their neighbors are fed up with same recurring crimes.

“When I was down there watching that Sunday night one neighbor had a gun on him. He had a concealed carry permit, and he was openly talking about considering firing six rounds in the air to disperse the crowd because if this doesn’t draw police maybe gunfire will. This is the level of desperation that this policy failure has left neighbors in,” Nina said.

The bureau is working on staffing up but that doesn’t happen overnight, and Nina said there need to be mitigation strategies now.

“We can’t just simply say it’s really hard, we don’t have enough staff, sorry, do your best, stay in your house. That’s not a city,” they said.

The chief said even with the low staffing right now, they are pulling officers and having some on overtime to do weekend street racing missions.

And late Tuesday night we asked Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office about any other strategies to deter crimes like this until the city gets more officers. We’re waiting to see if he has anything to add on that.