Portland launches vehicle & retail theft task force teams to combat crime

Portland City leaders and Law Enforcement announced their new plan to put a stop to organized retail crimes and car thefts.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:43 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - On Monday, Portland City leaders and Law Enforcement announced their new plan to put a stop to organized retail crimes and car thefts.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office announced the creation of two new local task force teams. One to focus on organized retail theft and the other to focus on auto theft. Officials say having these dedicated teams will make it possible to hold more people accountable.

Since the start of the pandemic, many businesses in Portland have shut down due to crime. MCDA say there has been a 68% increase in auto theft from 2019-2022.

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The two teams will consist of five positions. The City of Portland will fund $370,000 for two deputy district attorney investigators and one legal assistant. Multnomah County will fund $418,000 for two district attorneys.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell says they recently recovered 13 stolen vehicles and were able to make 19 arrests. With more resources, they can improve those numbers.

“We’re able to do these missions on a recurring basis, they’ve been really successful. We want to do them as often as we can, but we rely on overtime and officers to be available to do them,” says Chief Lovell.

The task force will work with several agencies including Gresham Police, Oregon State Police, PPB and Multnomah County Sheriffs office to improve their investigations and build stronger cases.

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Multnomah County District Attorney, Mike Schmidt says the key to having these teams is to help catch those who are reoccurring offenders and hold them responsible.

“You’ve got to prioritize, the people who have 3,4,5,6 stolen car cases out there and make sure at the very least they are being held accountable or getting defense attorneys assigned to them,” says D.A. Mike Schmidt.

Fox 12 spoke with Sara Jane who helps run the PNW Stolen Cars Facebook group to get stolen cars back to their owners. She says, she sees the task force already in place in Washington working successfully.

“It’s nice to be able to give a Facebook message to the task force and they’re able to get out there when no one else can,” says Jane. “I just know they have more time on their hands to respond and quickly.”

Jen Causey owns Lotus and Bean Espresso Bar in Southwest Portland. Her business was recently vandalized, and she had to rebuild, even considered closing down. She says the task force is a great idea, but thinks it could be overwhelming for police agencies.

“Give the city of reason to have these kinds of people there, because we need help we’re sinking,” says Jane. “The task force is exactly what we need in Portland because we just don’t have enough time.”

Multnomah County says once the budget is approved in June, the hiring process can start and hopefully be up and running by mid-summer.