Mayor Wheeler brings dedicated police unit back to Old Town

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:01 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Tuesday, a new public safety initiative in Old Town that will bring back a dedicated police unit to patrol the neighborhood’s Entertainment District on the weekends.

Mayor Wheeler made the announcement while protesters banged on doors and windows of the building where the press conference was being held. He said Portland Police will also close streets between Northwest Everett Street and West Burnside, as well as between Northwest 1st and 5th avenues. By decreasing car traffic on Friday and Saturday nights in the neighborhood and adding patrols, the mayor hopes safety will improve.

“First, this will provide a safer walking environment for patrons and offer more room to spread out,” Wheeler said. “I also hope this will encourage many visitors to come to the district using public transit. Second, this creates a safer working environment for business owners and employees in the neighborhood. And third, this will allow the Portland Police Bureau and our public safety partners to better focus their resources in Old Town.”

According to Portland Police crime data, between July 2021 and July 2022, there were 10 murders. One of those happened a block from where Alex Valle is painting a colorful mural on the corner of Northwest 4th Avenue and Couch Street.

“We wanted to do something that is like, hey, this is our town so we should unify and stay together,” Valle said.

A local artist, painting a mural on the corner of NW 4th and Couch in Old Town on Tuesday, Sep....
A local artist, painting a mural on the corner of NW 4th and Couch in Old Town on Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2022.(KPTV)

The mural shows iconic Portland landmarks, sitting on the shoulders of Atlas. Behind Atlas is a landscape of cascades with an orange and yellow sky. A colorful site on a corner that’s seen a dark year.

“I remember this place being super alive and super vivid and there was a lot of traffic,” Valle said. “Now all you see are boarded up windows and businesses closing down.”

He said he welcomes the mayor’s plan to increase safety during the nights on weekends.

SEE ALSO: City makes progress on Old Town cleanup; business owners say more still needs to be done

“I feel like people are really going to appreciate it,” Valle said. “Hopefully it brings out more people and allows more people to be themselves without fear of encountering some sort of altercation with people.”

While city leaders work on ways to make Old Town safer for everyone, Valles said he will be using his brush to paint his image of the Rose City and of a historic neighborhood that he sees will bounce back.

“Bringing that life back and seeing art and other things like this going up to try and fight the plywood walls per se and allowing people to have something visual and attractive to see.”