Businesses on NW 23rd Avenue feeling the impact of increased property crime

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 4:56 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - It has a reputation for being one of Portland’s trendiest streets, but now frustration on Northwest 23rd Avenue from business owners appears to be at a tipping point over an increase in property crime.

Walter Bowers, the founder of Thai Bloom, said over the last year plywood has become a common sight. He said vandalism and burglaries have increased, while prosecutions of those crimes decrease. Thai Bloom has had multiple windows randomly smashed, walls graffitied, and the register burglarized. The cost for repairs is adding up compounded by rising inflation.

“I met with my landlord yesterday was security filming on our windows, putting bars up over windows,” Bowers said. “We don’t want that. People sit next to the windows because they want to look out on 23rd and enjoy people watching. They don’t want to feel like they’re in the prison cell.”

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Bowers wants to be clear that these crimes happen at night. During the day Northwest 23rd Avenue is still a safe place to shop and dine. But property crime is taking a toll on businesses. He’s watched businesses leave and he knows some are thinking about it too. Even so, Bowers is holding out, hoping things will turn around.”

“I think it’s still a great area,” Bowers said. “It’s very safe during the days. I remember the Christmas lights, lit up on all the trees all the way down.”

Just last year, FOX 12 reported Portland police data showing a three-year increase in burglaries, car thefts, and theft of personal property. Out of 5,000 property crime reports, only 141 cases were assigned, and 36 arrests were made.

“If there’s something other than a property crime going on, somebody getting assaulted, or a violent crime, they’re going to address that first,” Bowers said. “I get it. But I think there needs to be more police.”

The latest burglary at Thai Bloom is what Bower calls an example of property crime being put on the back burner. He said just before Christmas, a man broke into his restaurant and was caught by police. Bowers credits his alarm system for alerting the police and not the suspect. He said it’s been activated so many times, it ran out of battery, creating a silent alarm.

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“They caught him in the building red-handed and apparently he had a scratch on his arm, probably from breaking the window, so they had to take him to the hospital,” Bowers said. “But with four police officers, they couldn’t wait until he was released to book him.”

Bowers said the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said the suspect hasn’t been arrested or charged even though the DA’s office and police know he is. Walter said this lack of attentiveness is making some of his neighboring businesses lose faith in the justice system, saying some don’t even call to report crimes.

“I want to stand in front of the commissioners and tell them everything,” Bowers said. “I’d really like it if they’re proactive and reach out to businesses that are to the point to get on the news, desperate to do anything, to see some change.”