Neighbors rally at Couch Park in NW Portland, say drug use, camping needs to stop
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Neighbors rallied at a park in Northwest Portland Friday, calling for the city to address their safety concerns.
People who live near Couch Park said they’re seeing violence, drug use and camping at the park, which is along a walking route to several nearby schools.
Todd Zarnitz, neighbor and president of the Northwest District Association, said people often find drug paraphernalia around the park.
“This is the kind of thing we see at the park here,” Zarnitz said. “It’s just a needle with who knows what’s in it, just laying here out in the open. This is school property, that’s a playground right there.”
The most recent incident involved a man carrying a machete. Neighbors said he’s been threatening people, including kids.
Portland police said they took the machete away from him earlier this week and said officers have been called about him multiple times, but they don’t have probable cause to arrest him.
Neighbors said that man was just the tip of the iceberg and they’re frustrated. They said not enough is being done to find a solution, and everyone in the community should be able to use the park without worrying for their safety.
Kerry Duff is another such neighbor and parent.
“The machete wielding incident is just a normal day in Couch Park around the school,” Duff said. “There have been naked people, men coming up onto the playground while children were out playing. People who are experiencing mental health issues or are on drugs, throw things, they yell profanities throughout the day, open drug use, and drug dealing here as well.”
While a FOX 12 crew was at the park, they saw police speaking with both neighbors and a group of campers.
Acting Sergeant Dan DiMatteo said they told the campers they needed to move and gave them resources to try to help.
One of the people camping near the park, who goes by Tacanna Ocean Love, said they understand why neighbors are upset and frustrated with the way things have turned out.
“I do understand it because it’s messy and some people are very messy and it’s disgusting,” Tacanna said. “And it’s really not okay. I wouldn’t want to come out of my house seeing that. And it’s frustrating for people that take care of their camps and do appreciate neighbors and try to have respect for them. But where the heck are these people supposed to go if all you do is kick them out of every place that they’re at.”
Sgt. DiMatteo said police are taking steps to try to make things safer for everyone. “We need to establish what the rules of use of the park are,” DiMatteo said. “There have to be consequences if people violate those rules - what’s going to be done? These aren’t things we can make happen overnight, because as they’ve kind of fallen off people’s radar, or they’re not being enforced, we need to bring it back into the spotlight as say ‘hey, this is how we take back our park.’”
Sgt. DiMatteo said he will reach out to park rangers and ask officers to walk by the park when they have time, to try and ease community concerns, as well as deter any bad behavior.
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