Thursday, February 10, 2011

Old Town: Overwhelmed by crack

According to the Tribune - Old Town is asking for help. I don't know whether I want to laugh or cry. I moved from Old Town in 2010 having moved there in 2004. Putting aside the drug issues for a moment - I enjoyed living there. But I enjoy living in Pearl much more - absence of visible drug trafficking and crime in general.

What an interesting contrast - Pearl and Old Town. They are separated by an invisible boundary line that might as well be a containment wall. It is not a natural selection process at work - it is purposeful isolation of Old Town from the rest of Portland.

While in Old Town I tried to make a difference but frankly in retrospect it was a waste of time. Old Town didn't want to hear about the problems. They are big believer in the glass is half full. It helps too that they suffer from the Ostrich syndrome.

Old Town is a different place - it is the dumping ground for Portland. It has been and is still is "controlled" by the social services sector in Old Town. See my take on Old Town as a neighborhood. Originally published in 2007 - it still seems appropriate in 2011.

Old Town has essentially three sectors: entertainment, social services, & residents. It is important to note that the bulk of residents in Old Town are those with non-discretionary income and many not even with disposable income. The residents possessing discretionary income are relatively few. The visible foot traffic is mainly business proprietors and employees and drug dealers.

For the most part the business proprietors and employees are apathetic. Oh yes - you will hear them complain  but they are always too busy to come to the neighborhood committee that attempts to deal with the drug issues. And forget that the business association even exists.

The police are not much help either. Ironically they have a storefront in Old Town and yet they are not visible. Also, although it may have changed, the police have relied on the Portland Business Alliance security force to "police" Old Town. Now that is really a waste of time and money.

Police always put forth their favorite dodge - we can help if you just call. Calling they posit will increase allocation of manpower to the area. The effect of that allocation is a mission. Police action in Old Town is mission oriented. They will gather themselves and other agencies like TriMet and sweep Old Town which results in a day or so of drug trafficking abatement.

It is so fleeting attempt that many in Old Town never sees the difference. And, never mind that they don't necessary want you to call 911 because that will be inappropriate. You see unless you catch the drug deal in action, can adequately describe the participants and are willing to disclose your identity - don't call 911 - call the non-emergency line.

Of course by the time one gets through to the police the drug dealers are long gone. A drug deal takes seconds. But an on-going presence is apparently not an option. Police on the sidewalks works, but it has failed for many reasons. Money and manpower are always the excuses. But, having sat in virtually every public safety committee during my stay in Old Town - it was clear that many police officers see Old Town as an undesirable assignment.

And who can blame them. When the police arrest drug dealers the dealers are back on the street often before the police. Police are denied effective means of combating crime in Old Town. The politics of race and liberal social mentality have defeated successful approaches like drug free enforcement zones. Because the drug dealer is often black the fallacious reasoners posit that the police are racist if they make an arrest.

The liberal elite don't see the drug dealers as criminals who are destroying Old Town and whose activity provide the basis for much of the city's crime - it takes money to buy drugs. They see the drug dealers as some failure of society and therefore they shouldn't be arrested.

In some measure the drug trafficking problem in Old Town is of Old Town's making. Silos are ever present in Old Town. Unless it somehow has affected the individual or their business - it isn't their problem. And besides - they don't live there. But if they have a project or something else to promote - they will show up at the public safety and other neighborhood meetings.

And therein lies a major fault - drug issues are not being addressed by all committees and the neighborhood association board. It is so much easier to leave to somebody else. PDC is located virtually in the center of the drug trafficking area. They have done ZIP to help curb the trafficking. But, of course, they don't live there.

Old Town neighborhood association has left it to one committee to fight drug dealing. In some ironic sense the neighborhood has an upper middle class group of professionals living in Old Town Lofts. Last time I looked they were adequately represented on the association's board. But these people for the most part had been absent during my time there. They are reaping the consequences because they failed to sow concern and opposition.

The Old Town Lofts residents would seem to have all the incentives necessary for them to be up in arms. Many of them were shoe horned in by tax incentives expecting to make a substantial profit on the expected sale - but instead the value of their properties have decreased. The property tax assessment shows that many have assessments lower that their purchase price.

And worst yet - the drug dealers have populated NW Flanders (the Lofts are at NW Flanders and NW 4th) without opposition. It is not a new story. I wrote about the drug dealers on Flanders in 2007. E.g. see this Old Town Blog post. It is not difficult to grasp that property values - not the assessed value but the market price - is negatively affected by drug dealing.

And finally, the ever growing presence of social services like the Resource Access Center (RAC) operates to attract drug dealers. Their concentration fills the neighborhood with those in need of the drugs. Their continual outside lines make it easy for dealers to mix and shield themselves from the police.

When Commissioners Sten and Leonard forced the RAC on the neighborhood - it was feared that it would act as a draw for drug dealers. Another irony - Old Town is a major drug and alcohol rehabilitation area and it is a major source of drugs.

The Union Station with its TriMet stops has become a major facilitator of drugs. On and on.

Look I could write, and have written, on this subject for years. But it is a waste of time because ten years from now - we will find that nothing has changed. Not even deaths in Old Town makes a difference.

I am not laughing but crying. Old Town is a place of promise never to be fulfilled. Sadly - no one really cares.

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