PPB weighs in on drug crisis in downtown Portland

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 9:20 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - First responders continue to battle the drug crisis in downtown Portland following the city clearing out and boarding up Washington Center, a vacant shopping center that allegedly became an open-air drug market, last week.

“Since the shutdown, which was last Wednesday, there has been displacement in terms of what we’ve seen in street-level drug dealing,” said Officer David Baer, the PIO for PPB’s Central Bike Squad. “My unit is currently working to locate where dealers are and put the pressure on them to either stop or go someplace else.”

He says they’ve seen the drug crisis explode over the last year.

“We, as police, go with medical and fire to several overdoses each day,” said Baer. “The current record, I believe, is 11 in one day. The volume of fentanyl that we are seeing and the volume of drugs we are seeing on the street is unprecedented. A year ago, the idea that the bike unit would be seizing thousands of fentanyl pills at a time was unheard of. Now anything less than a thousand fentanyl pills is small potatoes for us just because of the volume of drugs that are down here.”

Baer says last year, the big thing they were seeing were M30 pills, often laced with fentanyl. Now, he says they are seeing a rise in powdered fentanyl.

SEE ALSO: Portland police clear out inside of abandoned Washington Center building

“We as police go after dealers, we arrest them and sometimes they are armed,” said Baer. “They are transported to jail, and we submit those cases over to the District Attorney’s office. We are just one part of the criminal justice system so we are doing what we can with our limited resources. The bike team is four people on mountain bikes and I walk a beat down here most days. So, we are doing what we can, and hopefully, other resources are available to people in this system to get these cases prosecuted. I’m down here every day and the guys and girls I work with on bikes are down here every day. We make arrests every day. I can only exercise control over the small part of the process I am a part of.”

Since the Washington Center building was cleared and boarded up last week, many have asked the question, ‘now what?’

“Where do we go from here is the big question,” said Baer. “What’s the summer going to look like and frankly, I don’t know. If you would have told me this is what it was going to be like three years ago it would be kind of unbelievable. The amount of drugs we are seeing and public drug use that we are seeing. We do have concerns with what is the summer going to look like and what steps are we going to take to counter that. We are going to continue doing what we are currently doing, which is aggressively targeting fentanyl dealers in downtown, looking for stolen cars, looking for burglars, and hopefully, that makes enough of an impact to make downtown a safe place this summer. Right now, there’s a lot of people who are involved, a lot of stakeholders both community members, state legislators, police, fire, medical officials. It’s probably going to take everyone pulling together with a common goal to reverse the trend we are seeing down here because I don’t know how sustainable this is. The amount of drugs and the amount of overdoses, the strain it takes on the criminal justice system and the emergency medical system, it is a lot, so I don’t know where we go from here.”