An ‘Army’ of Volunteer Sleuths Are Out Hunting for Your Stolen Car

Oct 29, 2022 · 237 comments
Mad Mom (Everytown)
Portland resident here. Our Honda was stolen three times in 10 months. Final time it was totalled. Police "recovered" each time because neighbors called it in when it was parked where it wasn't recognized. The police maintain they have a high recovery rate; not at all attributable to their efforts. The mayor's solution is to buy everyone a "club." Sheesh!
Hector (Bellflower)
If you get caught stealing a car in LA you may get hauled in and released in enough time to steal a couple more, getting arrested and released in the same day. If your car gets stolen, your life can be turned into an instant nightmare if you lose a job, get flunked out of school, or can't get to a doctor.
RevBK (The heartland)
Makes me wonder what car insurance rates are in Portland….
DG (Out West)
It’s not hard to determine why there are fewer police and fewer people willing to become police officers anymore. With all the guns in this country - not to mention the untreated mental illness and seemingly unfettered drug trade - who in their right mind would want to join a police force? But the mental illness and drugs are not as deadly to police officers as all the guns. It makes no sense that police unions will not support sensible gun control.
The Bird (Europe)
Visited Portland a few time years ago, when times were safe and the city was beautiful. I suppose police has to be strengthened and especially penalties must be aggravated. To steal goods from somebody is not a hobby it is a crime.
David J. Krupp (Queens, NY)
@The Bird The problem is not the police. The courts are now unwilling to punish thieves.
Sean (Los Angeles)
Also, folks: Be careful allowing your car to be valet parked at, say, a restaurant or whatever venue/business. If you have a modern car with a key fob, I've seen valet attendants, park the car, and set the key fob on top of the front tire albeit out of sight. Still....not a secure way to place the keys and avoid potential theft.
Voter Frog (Oklahoma City, OK)
I live in central OK, out in the country. Not long ago, burglars opened our driveway gate, came down, and took my pristine 2004 Victory Kingpin motorcycle -- right under our noses while we were asleep. It was the 5th time burglars had hit our property in the past 2 1/2 years. Forget about the police. They're useless. And, yet forget about shooting a burglar unless you want to end up in prison yourself. So, now we're doing all the options like cameras, motion sensors, tasers, pepper spray.
JoeGiul (Florida)
While it is nice that people are helping together the real issue is the soaring crime that the progressives have enabled through the defund efforts. Who suffers? Not the criminals. Not the politicians who seem to love the pain they inflict on the populace. Not the poorer people the criminals prey on.
Iggy DC (Washinton, DC)
You ignore the obvious role drug addiction plays in this recent crime wave across America. The police are overwhelmed, underfunded and demoralized. The pandemic has little to nothing to do with crime. The author refers to homeless vagrants, many of them drug-addicted themselves, as “residents”. This is emblematic of how the press, in the name of compassion, refuses to recognize the importance of drug addiction as a driver of crime.
CH Shannon (Portland, OR)
Yes, I joined this group after unfortunately having to learn about how this all worked after my car was stolen in January. It's truly awful - although the officer I worked with believed me and cared, it's pretty obvious that neither our mayor nor the police bureau view this as a serious crime anymore. Then afterward, your insurance investigates *you* for insurance fraud, so nothing gets done for a while. It took over two months to get my car fixed due to the supply line issues and retitling the vehicle took a long time due to DMV staffing shortages. All this so a guy could use my vehicle as a one-night-motel and then cut out the catalytic converter to sell for drug money. It truly feels like the breakdown of society.
Edward Rubin (Bend)
I am saddened but unsurprised by the decline of Portland. When I worked in Portland in the 90s it was a tough town with a,reputation for bar fights, riots and the homeless but it was still vibrant and mostly safe. Now it seems like violence is everywhere, thefts are rising, the homeless population is more destructive and the never very good Portland Police Bureau has become useless.
John (Brooklyn)
I would guess police are also reluctant to stop stolen cars because car jackers are armed in America.
Guido (Cincinnati)
This is 'The Broken Window Theory' writ large. Once it begins, it never seems to end. Only gets worse. Everybody's to blame. Especially municipal government. What happened to this once beautiful environment is a crime as well as a sin. Cormac would have a field day here.
Anne Ho (San Diego)
One place car trackers are used effectively is South Africa where the tracker is designed to set off an alert the minute your car moves while the ignition is off. Remember these guys don’t need much time to strip a car (or the tracker itself out). An AirTag is only as useful as whomever is monitoring it - and you can’t be up all night and day watching your AirTag /car. The tracking company responds by both calling you and sending a response vehicle (so you don’t have to confront anyone - be they armed, aggressive, on the run or high) Several of these tracking companies guarantee a recovery, or, in the event they fail or find the vehicle unsalvageable, a cash payout. It doesn’t absolve the police of their duties but this definitely frees up the general public’s time and keeps them safer than they would have otherwise been chasing after thieves /addicts
Tracey (Hood River, Oregon)
Portland has fewer police officers now (789 as of Nov 2021) than any time in the past 30 years, with 165,000 additional residents. Add to that a tolerance of most kinds of crime short of murder (and most murders aren’t solved, with the homicide clearance rate at its lowest level in 10 years). There’s no restaurant or event imaginable that would get me to the city that is only an hour or so west of me. “Progressive” politics have a “catch and release” policy where most offenders are quickly released - so why would a cop spend any time dealing with vehicle robberies. The logical next step for smart Portlanders (other than abandoning the city) would be to organize neighborhood vigilante groups, armed and patrolling the streets. Sadly, “progressive” DA’s in Portland would be more likely to arrest and bring to trial an armed citizen protecting his or her property or person from a career criminal than they are to lock up the career criminals. And there’s plenty of work for the army of homeless on the streets. Give them lockers for their stuff, hazmat suits, and let them spend 8 hours a day cleaning up their “encampments” and the miles of trash. Pay them minimum wage for the work. End of the day they can get their stuff out of storage. PDX should stop their bureaucratic foot dragging and look at 3-D printed tiny homes and trailers that can be churned out quickly and get people shelter. No wonder the eastern counties want to join Idaho. Portland/Salem/Eugene are a disaster.
Doctor Woo (Orange, NJ)
Why are people paying taxes? DA's that won't prosecute & police that barely respond.
michjas (Phoenix)
Police inaction is a good thing. A small army of private citizens recovers about 200 of the 10,000 stolen cars. That’s a 98% failure rate. And there is little reason to believe the police could do better. A property crime is seldom as important as a violent crime. And using scarce resources to return 2% of stolen cars rather than to investigate murder and rape simply makes no sense. People want attention when they are crime victims. But when virtually none of the crimes are solved, the police have countless better things to do.
Juliana James (Portland, Oregon)
Lived here for ten years, the city is a rotting mess of trash, graffiti, meth addicts, homeless meth addicts, homeless tent camps, incompetent politicians, an ineffective Multnomah County, no prosecutions for crimes and gentrification......
l provo (st augustine)
@Juliana James Still live there. Drive into the west hills, hike in Forest Park. Take a 20 minute ride into the Columbia Gorge. Go to the farmers markets with a bounty found nowhere outside of that are. I live in the northwest. I bike along The Willamette Rive. The problems are serious but it is not everywhere. There are no real depressed ares in Portland. No place for the down and out to live. Much has been done to clean up the town. It will be solved.
Mike (Peoria, AZ)
Some of those photos look like the photos coming out of Ukraine, a landscape of wreckage and destruction.
M Ford (USA)
If these people can find stolen cars, why can't the police find them? We seem to be witnessing a breakdown in the local government in Portland, where people have to reinvent the wheel. As a result of systemic racism, people who live in cities controlled by the Democrats get poor quality law enforcement and suffer from more crimes. This follows an historic pattern where the Democrats devalue Black houses and neighborhoods with high crime rates and poor performing schools. After the property values plummet, they sweep in, buy the houses, restore the police and the schools then make windfall profits. This refusal to fight crime by the police in Portland will continue until minorities are devastated by it to the point that their houses are worth half as much as houses in properly governed communities.
lula (PDX)
Ironically, systemic racism is cited as the reason to stop arresting and prosecuting crimes!
james (USA)
Too bad the city government can't do their job.
Jenne' (Central Wyoming)
@james you should never have the mindset that any government can do their job. That said, some of these car owners leave doors unlocked and fobs in said vehicles. There’s a lot more to it than this article describes.
Asiata Shemash (Neskowin, OR)
I've lived in Portland for over a decade, and all of this is (in my opinion) not due to anything other than our very misguided law to decriminalize all drugs. I am sad to say I voted for this law because of the success of legalized Cannabis...but it was a mistake. It has led to folks saying 'why would I cook meth in the high desert and risk jail, when I can do it legally in Portland?' Regarding our Police. I have lived in places with 'command presence' style police forces. Portland police were absolute sweethearts compared with the east coast and south. When certain (very vocal) elements of our cities population decided to demonize them (mostly because these people have been coddled by a kind, benign police force for years) I could already see the problem happening in my mind. These police were going to retaliate. And they have: by refusing to do their jobs adequately. The (formerly kindly and nice) police have turned now against the citizenry. Mostly by letting this get as bad as they possibly can, as if to say - 'see what you did?' Portlanders are a strange people, notoriously cold and unfriendly, suspicious and willing to protest anything at the drop of a hat (as long as someone tells them to). They are not compassionate as a whole, but 'tolerant.' They act as if they are kind in the same way conservative Christian do. This is a beautiful place surrounded by nature, and lush producing farmland, but you've gotta hang around these jaded creeps to experience it
JS (Portland, OR)
@Asiata Shemash This is a distorted and inaccurate view. Oregon's drug decriminalization law does not legalize "cooking meth". It permits possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use. Where things went wrong was in the state's failure to quickly stand up drug treatment facilities. I'll also point out that your personal take on Portlanders is way off base from mine and that of most other people. We are rather known for our friendliness and as this article points out, our community mindedness.
GRH (New England)
@Asiata Shemash , there was a nationalization of the horrible George Floyd tragedy, such that even highly progressive and thoughtful and sensitive and well-trained police departments in progressive cities like Portland, Oregon and Burlington, Vermont were opportunistically attacked and demonized by arguably utopian-thinking progressives. In Burlington, Vermont, the majority progressive City Council reflexively and reactively cut the police force. Such that, as of August of 2022, the force was down from what was an authorized (if not fully staffed) 110 officers from before the cuts to around 61 officers. There was no nuance at all. No willingness to consider that Burlington, Vermont (or perhaps Portland, Oregon, in your case) was and is not Alabama circa 1963 and that the force here was not emblematic of Bull Connor style policing nor, indeed, Minneapolis in 2020. Now the residents, including the very demographics the progressives pretend to care about, are suffering the consequences.
Carl (Portland, OR)
@Asiata Shemash Well, I’ve lived in Portland twice as long as you—still not very long, but I’ve never experienced the very dark description of Portlanders that you apparently have, thank goodness. I guess we all find what we seek.
Brian (NJ)
Appears Portland's liberal government leaders have inadvertently created a new profitable industry that, however, provides no tax base to support them.
Dolores Deluxe (balto md)
@Brian did you not read this is happening all over the USA? so easy to point fingers at political groups- perhaps it is the end stage capitalist system which has caused so many to be lost in that system- turning to drugs- causing homelessness- & desperation.Are the rich getting richer- & the poor having less? or do you blame the starving man for overeating?
Ivermarkt (Pasadena)
Sort of ironic, considering the strength of the defund the police movement there. I guess be careful what you wish for.
Mike (Peoria, AZ)
Portland may need to do what Camden, NJ did ten years ago when its police force left much to be desired: they disbanded their police force and rebuilt it from the ground up, with notable success. Story here:
l provo (st augustine)
@Mike Portland is not Camden. I know both very well. Portland is like a rolling and tree covered suburb with a small downtown. Evergreen trees dot the area so it never looks like the bleak northeast. But there are pockets of homeless camps often in the woods and sometimes under elevated highways. Blame it on the mental health system, the adulterated drugs coming from Mexico, felons with no access to jobs or housing, the cost of living increases. Not sure the politicians could deal with this in the past two years and social distancing without creating another uproar.
Felix (Portland)
This book tells a compelling story about the flood of fentanyl and meth in this country today and the resulting homelessness, crime, and Insanity. Criminal justice systems and social services aren't anywhere close to being prepared to deal with it.
Clearwater (Oregon)
Honestly whenever I get over to Portland now many of the streets look like the sets from of the escape scenes from the compound in Mad Max/The Road Warrior. The streets in many areas are just littered with trashed, obviously stolen and stripped apart cars of all makes and are just left like cigarette butts in the gutter. I've seen new Volvos, Mercedes, Hondas, new Ford Pick Ups - you name it. I also saw, the last time I was over there, these large printed plastic banners that say, Steal My Gas, Get Shot. Hanging from nice apartment buildings. I also think that at least a little part of this is the police are not necessarily doing their job to the fullest extent after having to battle so many people in Portland for those insane 100+ days of unrest. I know their ranks have dwindled sizable too.
l provo (st augustine)
@Clearwater Shortage of police. National post Covid crime increase. Easy gun access brought to us by SCOTUS, the rightwing irrationalists, and the good old capitalist system. The vandalism were not totally home baked. Outsiders were involved.
TL (Los Angeles)
Only five or six years ago, Portland was a completely different city. Now "PDX" is a cesspool of tent cities full of junkies and criminals who use the yards, homes and vehicles of taxpaying Oregonians as their toilets and shopping centers. The City of Roses has wilted while Wheeler, Brown and city officials have their heads in the sand.
Scott (Maui)
We have a big car theft problem here on Maui also. If you find your car, likely as not it has been stripped already. The most common way cars get stolen here is people leaving the keys in it just to run inside a store for a sec. Lots of cars get stolen from people's driveways at night because they leave the keys in it. I have an older Toyota truck which are notoriously easy to steal, but I put a locking "club" on the steering wheel in any public parking lot. It is cheap and easy to use and from what I hear, very effective.
Wurzelsepp (CA)
@Scott, these steering wheel locking bars take less than 6 seconds for an average skilled car thief to open, so they provide mostly a (false) feeling of security to their owners. There are better ways to secure a vehicle (like installing a hidden fuel pump switch), and a tracker which can disable the vehicle remotely.
Alex (Tacoma, WA)
In Tacoma more people are using tracking devices on their cars. Many have had their cars stolen multiple times. One used an Apple AirTag and tracked her car while keeping in touch with police. They recovered her car and arrested thieves. For those on Android there are also many GPS trackers that are reasonably priced, some may require subscription for mapping service. These are made for fleet vehicle tracking. People put them on trailers etc...
Tracey (Gresham)
@Alex - great point on using AirTags but in Seattle and Tacoma (and Portland) the car thieves aren’t viewed as a problem. They’re just oppressed people who the elected DA’s don’t want to burden by requiring bail, punishment, or any other deterrent. Back on the street within hours - it’s a waste of time for the police to look for stolen cars. They’ve got unsolved murders and rapes (again, in Portland for sure). When I was in Seattle in June the shelves at the nearby downtown CVS were virtually empty. Why? Shoplifters come in and steal the amount that they know they won’t be charged with. A society with real interest in its citizens would have those thieves locked down and learning what real work is for a while. It’s not like they’re contributing anything to society now, so we may as well get a few license plates out of them.
Experienced Portland police officers were driven from the city. Now Portland can’t find enough recruits to replace them, even though the police academy has lowered the vetting and education requirements. Portland police were treated with targeted cruelty and contempt. Felonies were reduced to misdemeanors, and now people blame police for being so depleted?
l provo (st augustine)
@Ex PNW They took their retirement like many teachers, nurses, and even IRS agents. A shortage in many areas due to older people bowing out.
Carl (Portland, OR)
No one really wants to say it so I will. A return to a simple prohibition on public camping, like most every city has had historically, would solve many of Portland’s property crime woes. There, I said it.
l provo (st augustine)
@Carl In the works. Ask the mayor of Portland? He places to end camping and place those involved in enclosed ares with housing.
michjas (Phoenix)
I hit a deer 5 months ago going about 30 mph. My hood was damaged and the repairs amounted to $2,000. The deer was stunned but ran off, surely injured but perhaps not fatally. I took the car to a chain body shop which couldn’t get parts for 3 months. So I tried a local shop. They were nicer but it’s been another two months. I’ve taped the trim piece, but 5 months of driving and still no end in sight. And I fear that by the time the parts come in the whole front end will have to be replaced, delaying the process indefinitely. There is a quick solution however. If I leave my key on the roof and spotlight the car an unprincipled thief—my brother-in-law comes to mind—might drive it away and strip the parts. Then my insurance would help me buy a new car which will have a siren to ward off passing deer. Stealing cars is beginning to make sense for ordinary consumers. And if you call, I’ll be glad to refer you to my unscrupulous brother-in-law. Just come to one of our softball games. I’m the pitcher. He’s the catcher.
BayArea101 (Midwest)
"newer vehicles can also be snatched when people leave their key fobs inside the car" It's my understanding that this is the most reliable way to find your car missing when you next expect to find it where you left it.
Lyndi (Portland, OR)
As someone whose car was stolen last month in Portland, this article is very timely. We quickly found the volunteer online groups and had many volunteers out scouting for our vehicle immediately. To the police's credit, they recovered it within 2 days, though it was totaled. The problem is not the police in Portland - it is the D.A. The police are responsive and helpful (our home was also broken into a few years ago), but our top law professional in the city does not punish crimes. There are literally zero repercussions for these criminals. The man who stole our car went to jail for the night and was released the next day. Same thing with the guy who broke into our house. As long as our District Attorney allows crimes to go unpunished, our police force's efforts are pretty futile.
Tracey (Gresham)
@Lyndii ,.. exactly right! Portland’s “catch and release” policy for most criminals leaves those of us who are honest and productive members of society at the mercy of the lawless. I remember talking with business colleagues from Argentina back in the 1980’s. They ended up accepting the rule of the junta for a period because the alternative that preceded them was a terrible period of lawlessness. I didn’t expect to see that here in the PNW but both Seattle and Portland are prime examples. New Portland leadership and a recognition that responsible policing can and should co-exist with tossing criminals into jail and having penalties for breaking the law. These “progressive” DA’s have done nothing to right the great “systemic” wrongs but plenty to destroy the safety and security of thousands of people of all backgrounds. No wonder more people want weapons.
Lisa (NYC)
Just think...if more folks simply said 'no' to the kneejerk notion that every American over the age of 18 should have their own 2-ton form of personal transit, maybe there'd be fewer cars to steal, ergo fewer people crying over the loss of their 'most valuable possession'. There are lots of people out there (esp in big cities and public-transit rich areas) who simply do not need to own a vehicle. Even in a place like NYC, we see countless people who own cars for no other reason than they just thought they should own one. And once you do own a car, well we all know what happens after that... you become lazy, entitled and addicted to driving anywhere and everywhere.
CH Shannon (Portland, OR)
@Lisa Your comment is victim-blaming. Portland and NYC are different cities. NYC has extensive public transportation both within the city and to connect out of it. Portland is nowhere near as extensive. Cars are often needed to get to work and for some errands. I live here and use public transportation or walking for most of my errands but I need to own a car to get to my job even though I drive only about 3,000 miles per year.
Dana Ohl (NYC)
Many elders are not fit for subway combat, and/or live in areas with few options. My world of theater, concerts and visits with friends are activities, and enlarge my world, as we elders deserve. And, yes, you work fifty years, without a car, then, you are entitled.
Mark M (Washington, DC)
@Lisa And so what? Those unneeded cars should be stolen with impunity? Suppose that we applied the same logic to homes, figuring that people had much larger houses than they needed. Or electronics. Or basically anything that people own en masse. You might not like the fact that people have cars, but it’s difficult to see how that justifies having them stolen.
Doron (New York)
It's worth noting that Portland Police Bureau budget this year has been the highest in its history. After a slight reduction in 2020-2021 following the BLM protests (which was still higher than 2017-2018 or any year before that), the 2021-2022 budget was higher than ever. The defund the police turned into re-fund the police. But what are they doing with all that funding? Meanwhile the NYPD budget is higher than ever and it doesn't look like cops are doing anything about surging crime in NYC. The other day I was in a store around the block. They had called the police because of a shoplifting incident (a dozen of those happen there every day). By the time the cops finally showed up (the precinct is 5 blocks away), another shoplifter was clearing the shelves. The employees alerted the cops to this second incident in progress, and their reaction was "one case at a time" and proceeded to write up a report about the earlier incident while the second shoplifter walks out of the store right in front of them with his loot. I think we have a police idleness epidemic in this country.
Clearwater (Oregon)
@Doron Agreed. Over in Portland at least.
David Fairbanks (Reno Nevada)
I would not want to be a car in America. Once loved and well attended, they are now treated like an aging toy. Theft of a car is no joke, too many people suffer financial and emotional loss for years.
HS (Colorado)
There is a line in this article that makes me shake my head, the part where someone had their car stolen while they were out helping someone at the scene of an accident. Doing something like that is like looting.
CH Shannon (Portland, OR)
@HS Yes, the car thieves here are absolutely brazen about it because they know there is no punishment for it. They steal vehicles and cut off catalytic converters in hospital parking lots. It's that bad.
PH (Portland, OR)
Portland also has massive volunteer trash clean ups on a weekly basis ... I appreciate the volunteerism here ... but also wonder where my taxes are going if working people have to spend their days off searching for stolen cars and cleaning up dump sites all over the city. This is about average people trying to maintain their communities where the city government has failed spectacularly. To those piling on, please note the extreme Left yells the loudest in Portland, and consequently gets a lot of press; there's more disagreement here than one might assume. One thing most agree on is that the current structure of Portland city government is on its way out, either in this election cycle or the next.
Jim (Idaho)
@PH With 10,000 auto thefts and many 1000's of other crimes and 10's of 1000's of calls for service, there are simply not enough cops to search for them; never will be. The best they can do is check plates as they're driving to and from other priorities and recover a few here and there that way.
West Coast (USA)
And it must be said that property taxes in Portland are high!
That Gal (Neither Here Nor There)
@PH So you think tax dollars should good to pick up trash. Good to know.
J.P. (Portland, OR.)
Don’t park at PDX parking lots either. Lots of car thefts and break-in’s there also. But according to the folks that run the place, “things happen.” Which could be the new motto for Portland. Things happen...just not good things.
Andreu (Barcelona)
Honest question: why owners don’t leave a simple AirTag inside?
Been There (Upstate)
@Andreu Because you have to have an Iphone within 30' of the car.
james (USA)
@Andreu How about the cops put criminals in jail instead?
Linda (LA)
Because they arrest them & Court lets them out. “Catch & Release”. Some aren’t even arrested because they’ll be immediately released. House burgled? Won’t come right out unless “in progress”. Mine took two days for a response.
Been There (Upstate)
The cars are stolen because it is easy to do, they can be quickly stripped of parts and the thieves have go to places they can sell the parts easily and make money. Don't think it is a bunch of addicts looking to buy a batch of drugs full of fentanyl. Sounds well organized and gang related. The cops need to step up. They are well funded to do so.
BayArea101 (Midwest)
@Been There " The cops need to step up. They are well funded to do so." Isn't that PD operating at half-strength? It doesn't matter how much funding you have when officers don't wish to work in your town.
Terri Steinbauer (Minnesota)
No the the police are not well funded in Portland. Their funding was cut by at least $15M and we have less police officers now than anytime in the last 30 years. Crime is up in Portland for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they know they won’t be caught because police are inundated with violent offenses and don’t have time to deal with car theft.
linda gies (chicago)
@Been There Baffled why people don’t put an Air Tag in their car. They cost $29.
Thomas J Pain (Coos Bay)
The once beautiful Rose City has morphed into the cesspool of the West in a space of eight years. Progressive politicians who tolerate property, drug, and nuisance crimes are largely responsible.
Dana (Portland)
@Thomas J Pain nah only some areas are cesspools. It's a gorgeous city with beautiful bridges, views from every direction, kind people, lots of culture, a very nice vibe of letting people be who they want. No pressure on everyone to be the same, think the same, etc. It's a great place to live.
Brooke (Portland)
The police in portland recently took 80 minutes to respond to an emergency call from a high school vice principal. They were calling in a report of a student with a gun. This was in a very central location on a weekday afternoon. It took 83 minutes for the police to arrive. The transcript from the 911 call makes it clear the school administrator is distressed and there is an emergency.
Katherine (Portland, Oregon)
@Brooke thanks for posting this excellent example! The police absolutely will not come when people call them !
lula (PDX)
In my neighborhood, The cops will ticket cars that are parked slightly incorrectly—but totally ignore the obviously abandoned cars down the block. Recently, it took a concerted effort of organizing multiple neighbors on my block to finally get a car removed that sat for weeks with broken windows and flat tires and no plates. In the meantime my neighbor got a ticket for parking the wrong direction—which is against the law, but c’mon, if you are going to do that,, at least do something about the car without plates that is just a few houses down.
BayArea101 (Midwest)
@lula Police enforce the laws they're directed by their superiors to enforce. Their superiors direct them to enforce the laws that elected politicians tell them to enforce. Elected politicians respond to what their voters tell them they want; and when they don't, they get replaced. If you want change, start with the politicians.
lula (PDX)
I am! For the first time in my life, I am voting republican! Not because I agree with them on most issues, but because the democrats have proven themselves incompetent and ineffective!
climate refugee (Hot Springs AR)
This article makes me question how blue cities (where there is a massive amount of wealth) are failing so badly in law enforcement. Is it that so many young people move to Portland, and crimes are always highest in the 18-25 male demographic? Is it tolerating drug use in the open, attracting more drug users and street people? Is it desperation because jobs pay peanuts and when you live in a posh city like Portland you can't afford housing, much less a car? The key is how thieves target cars because they are worth more. It's good to see victims get empowered but you can't blame people in red states for not wanting to move to the Big City where crimes go unpunished.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@climate refugee Nice try, but this completely ignores the FACT that red cities and red states have higher crime than blue states and cities. Just because it's a Republican talking point does not make it true. I'm more worried about domestic terrorism (best wishes to Mr. Pelosi) and the Oregon militias, than "drug users and street people". I'm more worried about tax crimes by the very wealthy, which is a crime against all of us. AND, I am worried about crime, and I appreciate these folks who are looking out for each other. Can't help contrasting this with the Texas legislators turning all Texans into potential vigilantes to go after people who help women with their reproductive health care.
Peter (USA)
@climate refugee It is, precisely, the problem of tolerating open drug use.
Mor (California)
@teresa This is not true - just a partisan talking point. What crime? What data? There is no question that the rates of property crimes, quality-of-life crimes and random violence have spiked up in blue cities all around the nation. NYT actually provides a very good coverage of this issue. Homeless junkies on the street randomly harassing passers-by, shooting up and exposing themselves do more to create a pervasive atmosphere of lawlessness and lack of safety than homicides. Who are you to tell people who are feeling unsafe that it is “all in their heads”? I am not worried about tax crimes, whatever they are, or even domestic terrorism, which is rare. I am worried about my car being stolen, my home broken into, myself and my family members being assaulted or harassed by drug users and mentally ill homeless, which happens every day in San Francisco. The notion that people should form DIY crime-solving squads because the police and DAs won’t do their jobs is horrifying. And the Texan solution of getting a gun looks more and more attractive. If the government does not do its job of protecting law-abiding citizens, no surprise that they take law in their own hands.
Hawaii Boy (The Islands)
Portland - a progressives Utopia. Where nothing is ever a progressives fault and no progressive ever takes responsibility for anything. Good luck.
J.P. (Portland, OR.)
My dad used to live within walking distance of downtown in the Corbett area. Just this year, someone stripped his car overnight to the point where the insurance company had to total it. He is elderly, and was late on a payment so he had to take the loss. How much effort does it take to strip a car to the point of being unsalvageable, and how did anyone in a semi-crowded neighborhood not notice? And even if they had, the police wouldn’t had responded anyway.
That Gal (Neither Here Nor There)
@J.P. How much effort does it take to help your elderly father make sure his bills are paid. Do better.
D. Whit. (In the wind)
It is hard to believe that auto manufacturers cannot make a car "steal-proof" these days. We use to wire the starter thru hidden switches or pull the distributor feed.
Brian (NJ)
@D. Whit. Now that's a Progressive's theme. Blame it on the auto manufacturers.
Wurzelsepp (CA)
@D. Whit., you can still do that, but where's the protection if every car has the same hidden switch from factory?
Kyle (Portland, OR)
People of all ideologies here in Portland can all agree that our government & police are utterly useless
Kian (Cambridge)
Everyone saying the uptick in crime the police won’t solve is due to Portland’s progressivism needs to reread the article—Portland just approved a record-high police budget. This is exactly why progressives are in favor of defunding the police: giving them more money has no relationship to whether your crimes are solved, and the surrounding community is more helpful than the police ever will be. These victims are not interested in punitive “justice” involving long prison sentences for the thieves, which will not prevent them from reoffending as the systemic causes that lead people to car theft will still exist when their sentences are over. They want their cars back. They want to live in a city where they can feel secure that their cars will not be stolen in the future. Police do not accomplish these goals.
Djt (Norcal)
@Kian Our police has not changed but expenditures have dropped because the force has shrunk through attrition and inability to hire. Budget is the wrong metric; expenditure and staff size are better metrics.
james (USA)
@Kian It's a failure of culture and overlooking criminal behavior. Not mention that once a police force shirnks it can be hard to rebuild it.
Peter Aterton (Albany)
My Mazda would not pass inspection because the left indicator plastic was slightly cracked, a sharp plastic posed a danger to someone?, Mazda did not make that product, I went looking for a junked Mazda car in Trenton, quite an experience. Many say a well laid, planned , rundown neighbourhood is better than a middleclass neighborhood in a developing country, true roads are good, but you cannot leave in such a house with extreme weather condition admist violent people.
Michael N (NY)
I’m happy to see citizens becoming more engaged in what happens in their community. They’re not taking the law into their own hands, rather they’re becoming active participants in the wellbeing of their community.
Steven Wolfson JD, PhD (Dallas TX)
Just doing the job cops won’t do.
james (USA)
@Michael N Maybe they should take the law into their hands. Many people's cars are a major investment.
linda gies (chicago)
@Michael N seems like if people just put an Air Tag in their car, they wouldn’t have to volunteer to drive around and look for stolen cars.
Jeremy (Sacramento)
“Police respond to requests for them to start doing their jobs correctly (2018 protests) by doing their jobs even worse”
As a Portlander, the only part of this article that made me laugh was, "and the police say they are focused on other crimes."
B. D. (Milwaukee)
@MM Admitting they're incompetent to do the very job they're tasked with doing, let alone with a record budget. I love unintentional irony.
Katherine (Portland, Oregon)
@MM that's right! Focused on doing nothing.
james (USA)
@B. D. Not incompetent but understaffed. There's a big difference. You don't recreate a police force overnight.
Tony Cochran (Portland, Oregon)
The city increased the police budget in the last vote. The police have plenty of resources—new fast SUVs for example (often sitting outside the cafe near my apartment)—and they nothing. I’ve seen people chopping up a car off a main intersection—a police cruiser passed by. Ironically, they did get a parking ticket for having so many stolen cars slowly becoming permanent features of the North Portsmouth and Lombard intersection. No wonder so many of us would like an alternative to this capitalist hellscape called America. Portland isn’t the problem—capitalism is.
Zamboanga (Seattle)
The problem is actually the people who commit these crimes.
B. D. (Milwaukee)
@Zamboanga And poverty is the reason why, hence the "capitalism" comment. I don't necessarily agree, but your retort is missing the point.
Katherine (Portland, Oregon)
@Tony Cochran so agree. The police won't do anything!
Anna Del Savio (Portland)
Good article. Would be better if it credited and/or wasn’t ridiculously similar to local reporting.
RR (California)
There are known solutions to this kind of crime, but it takes making the perpetrators accountable for their actions by putting them behind bars. As a moderate Democrat- I’m sorry to say to all the progressives, but there are consequences for no-bail policies, drug diversion, prison reform policies, and reclassification of felonies to misdemeanors. Actual accountability does help the perpetrator, by giving them incentives to get sober so they aren’t stealing to fund an addiction. Police brutality is a travesty. But when Democrats vote for policies that remove accountability for criminals, what we’re left with is anarchy, and electing Republicans.
Been There (Upstate)
@RR Police brutality is not a travesty. In 2020 the City of Portland had to pay out $1.2 million for lawsuits against the PPD for their brutality. Cash bail policies keep poor people in jail for months on end living behind bars but anyone with means can pay the bail and sleep all comfy in their bed after an evening of Netflix. Apparently that is ok with you, "moderate Democrat." And why do you think all thieves are addicts? How about thieves taking advantage of the cops looking the other way? White collar criminals do it all the time.
B. D. (Milwaukee)
@RR The solution is reducing poverty, not spending MORE tax dollars on incarceration. Social programs, even just giving people a guaranteed income each month, is much cheaper than incarceration. We can lock everyone up but I prefer the cheapest solution. I pay enough taxes.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@RR We just want "accountability" to look the same, whether the criminal is Black or white, rich or poor, connected to the powerful or connected only to poverty. White criminals paying reasonable bail and walking free, while others languish in jail before ever being convicted of anything. Any moderate Democrat I know understands this.
Jaime Martinez (Portland OR)
It's Mad Max in some parts of Portland.
Martin c (California)
@Jaime Martinez Want mad max? Come to San seems to be coming to alot of municipalitys.
l provo (st augustine)
@Jaime Martinez I would said insane max in Portland. I lived in Miami for 30 years. This era tops anything that I have seen.. A lovely city with so many amenities. The mayor is trying to resolve these issues. Blame it on the people that are lawless and have created a sort of underworld subculture. There have been improvements in the past year. The adulterated drugs have taken a toll on those naive enough to use them.
james (USA)
@Jaime Martinez Progressives got the city they wanted, enjoy.
Snippy (VA)
Welcome to the Progressive Paradise of Portland. Here's a link to a real journalism about life on the streets of Portland:
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Snippy "real journalism" on youtube? nah.
Snippy (VA)
@teresa I understand you don't consider reporting on YouTube real journalism. I'm curious about the conditions in Portland. You live down the road from there, have you been to the downtown area in the last couple of years? My impression is that it's overrun with crime, homelessness, and substance abuse. And that police (due to whatever reason) are not enforcing non-violent crimes. Is that inaccurate?
GS (East Coast)
Here’s an idea to put a dent in car thefts. Have the police put out a dozen decoy vehicles wired to spray the wannabe thief with that indelible ink (dye packs) that banks put in money bags.
linda gies (chicago)
@GS or have the police tell people they will only investigate if the car has an Air Tag.
Katherine (Portland, Oregon)
@GS that's assuming that the police would actually do anything.
Sy (West Coast)
Two cars and three motorcycles were stolen off our block here in NE Portland. The amount of tire boots on cars, trailers, and motorcycles has increased substantially.
Stumpy Dowd (NYC)
Volunteer crime sleuths searching Portland for a stolen (and luxurious) Lincoln Navigator? Doesn't this raise issues of inequity, lack of racial diversity within these self-appointed 'volunteers', and organized support for activities that might feed the prison system with new inmates? Or did we suddenly realize that the spike in crime makes all that naval gazing far less important, even in Portland?
Tell The Truth (New York)
@Stumpy Dowd "No good deed goes unpunished". Maybe the following sentence from the article was missed in the zealous rush to make the issue another manifestation of America's "original sin", and as usual, without any practical solutions re how solve the problem : "Older vehicles, which often lack alarms or modern security systems that prevent hot-wiring, remain among the most popular to steal." It goes without saying that it is these vehicles that are owned by lower income demographics, which mathematically means the most adversely affected are racial minorities. There's a reason Republicans are (sadly) winning.
l provo (st augustine)
@Tell The Truth Many older cars in Portland are owned by young people. In a predominantly white [pink maybe or tan city] most of these cars are owned by the majority. Lots of poor whites in Portland.
Jack (PDX)
What a strange comment, complaining (on assumption only) that people volunteering to help aren’t “diverse” enough. The only thing needed to create a diverse volunteer group is for representatives of under-represented groups to step forward and volunteer. It’s really that simple. There’s no gatekeeper here. You also seemed to have missed the entire section of reporting that underlines how low-income people with older cars bear the brunt of the fallout from these crimes. The group wasn’t only out looking for one Lincoln Navigator. This is the kind of ridiculous response to issues that’s gonna earn us a Republican governor. We deserve it. Sad.
Macrina (Seattle)
It would be helpful if the reporting included thumbnail descriptions of the car jackers: are they kids, pro criminals, gangs?
l provo (st augustine)
@Macrina Please train them to do detailing for a living. It pays well.
Bluebird (Colorado)
Hey, I’m willing to raise my taxes to put away criminals for decades. Yes decades. In addition to less crime there would be fewer children born into families of low-life thieves.
Hank (Astoria)
How sad to see Portland, which used to be the greatest city in America, become so crime ridden. The police need to set up Task Force to track where the car are stolen from and where they end up and then set up intelligent cameras that can track the comings and goings of all the cars in the area. Sentences for those caught stealing the cars or dismantling them need to be increased.
Will Johnston (Portland Oregon)
@Hank I'm here in Portland and things are getting better. It was really bad a year ago. Hopefully the election and awareness about the issues will bring about some more change for the better.
l provo (st augustine)
@Will Johnston I agree as a part time resident. There is a concerted effort to resolve these issues. Many of the homeless I see are young. Many women. Portland has dome more than most cities to be humane. Just overwhelmed by the multifaceted problem.
Sanvista (NYC)
Crime is surging across many American cities. I travel frequently between NY and CA for work and the crime uptick in both places is not "perception" as some Democrats and NYT columnists suggest. Whether one is fearful because of out of control homicide rates in southern cities, property crime on the west coast, or being harassed on the subway in NY (something I've experienced twice in the last six months) crime IS out of control in too much of America. I'm a democrat and will vote accordingly in the election, because the Republicans offer zero solutions to any problem and well they're liars BUT the democratic leadership of major American cities need to lead on real solutions to public safety issues NOW.
Jack (PDX)
Exactly. I’m a liberal as well, and I don’t think burying our heads in the sand and being naive about crime is doing anyone any favors. Including the folks staying out of jail just to commit crime on the street. When there’s no accountability, there’s no reason to change.
Wondering (SoCal)
Think it’s bad that police don’t respond to stolen cars? In San Diego they’re now sometimes too busy to respond to rape:
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Wondering I would want to know exactly which crimes were they busy solving, while they failed to respond to rapes. Which infractions do those cops think are the priority over rape?
Been There (Upstate)
Good for Mr. Crawford and the others who are working together as good neighbors to help solve a common problem, car theft, in PDX. As to the police in PDX: I lived there and have many friends and family there. Before you blame these thefts on "progressive Democrats" you should know that all PDX city departments have faced major funding cuts but the police department budget is about 33% of the general fund and has not faced substantial cuts from that percentage. In fact, their budget has increased. Staffing shortages in the PD is a real problem but they aren't due to "defunding the police." Retirements and cops quitting were high and recruitment was low. Combine that with increasing gun violence and gang activity and the place has a real problem.
lula (PDX)
And why is recruitment low? Because Portlanders act like police are evil, and routinely disparage them. Who would want to work for such a ungrateful town?
Jack (PDX)
Cops quitting and retiring en masse was absolutely a direct response to the whole city screaming “ACAB” and “Defund.” Taking for granted the work the police did made no one want that job. Who can blame them? It’s one thing to (rightly) agitate for better policing and expect accountability for the role they play in crime response. It’s another to throw the baby out with the bathwater and act like the cops had no role to play. Obviously, they do.
Brandon (Oregon)
NYT can stop picking on Portland. This article is inaccurate to say the least. When we look to Detroit, or New Orleans, or Los Angeles we see the same situation, or Houston or Dallas. Growing up in Detroit insuring a car was insanely expensive because of the theft rate. When I lived in Chicago and San Francisco it was the same. What causes this: The lack of subsidized post high-school education, a lack of good paying and rewarding employment, and a general lack of hope in our society. Blaming all of our problems on the Pandemic is some serious 3 Card Monty.
MN (Portland)
@Brandon they aren't picking on us. They are reporting the reality on the ground. Someone needs to draw attention to it.
Jrb (Earth)
@Brandon Don't feel bad, at least it's just about stolen cars. They regularly make Chicago the poster city for homicides when that city isn't even in the Top Ten for those.
l provo (st augustine)
@Brandon High drop out rate in schools. Portlandia gone awry. Portland has many well paying jobs. You just need talent and the education to fill the positions.
Roger C (Portland Oregon)
The car theft is rooted in homelessness which is rooted in drug abuse which is rooted in despair which is most likely rooted in childhood physical and mental abuse. So maybe someday the phrase of despair, "inject your rent and live in a tent" can be replaced with "make better schools or else build bigger prisons".
lula (PDX)
It’s also rooted in complete lack of any consequences for breaking the law. I’ve watched people shoplift brazenly without consequence and the store employees are clear they are told to just ignore it. I’ve seen people saw off bike locks on a busy street in the middle of the day. It’s nuts. And no, I don’t do anything either. I know the cops won’t come so I don’t bother calling. If I confront them, I know there is a good chance that it will escalate and I will be blamed for escalating the situation.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@lula So, when you call the cops they won't come ... Their budget has NOT been reduced ... Ummmm. But, this is a problem caused by criticizing the cops? So, if we criticize cops, we should expect them to quit doing their job? And, we should still pay them? And stop criticizing them? Because they're cops? Most of lose our jobs if we are not able or willing to complete the tasks as assigned.
Lisa Markel (Portland OR)
I'm in Portland, my uncle had his car stolen and Portland police told him to find his own car. A local homeless man witnessed the crime and told him where he might find it- an outdoor chop shop, operating right out in the open. Police cars often drive right by. My uncle went with a few people and cajoled the guys stripping the car to let him tow what was left of it. Police in Portland have taken the tactic of doing nothing about a LOT of crimes. It's like "we'll show you" to a liberal city, even though the city just passed a police funding budget that's at a record high.
MN (Portland)
@Lisa Markel our neighbors experienced the same thing. And even though they wanted to press charges against the guy who had their car, the police won't return the prosecutor's calls so they just aren't going to prosecute. It's sickening.
Been There (Upstate)
@Lisa Markel The police budget is at a record high but many here would prefer that this is all due to defunding the police.
blorx (hackneyed)
Where are they supposed to get the officers from? Who’s running toward Portland saying ooh ooh me me, I want to be a cop there! No one! And rightly so.
Rex Nemorensis (Los Angeles)
Gosh, I can’t imagine why we are on track for a Republican wave election cycle…
Wm. (Yakima, Wa)
Yep, totally agree..!!
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Rex Nemorensis Because trump and his thugs did SO much to reduce crime?!
Jarren (Cody, WY)
I am constantly shocked at the utter lack of law and order on the west coast, which is sad for such a beautiful place. People need to know that this is not normal in many parts of the country. You shouldn't have to see any stripped-out cars anywhere. There are other ways to live. While traveling in rural northern CA a couple of years ago I parked at a busy park trailhead at noon and came back an hour later to busted windows and stolen gear. The cops let me use a shop vac to clean up the glass, but I doubt a report was even made. They said, "We had five break-ins at that spot in the last week... but what are you going to do?" I could personally think of a dozen very simple possibilities for prevention and prosecution, but hey, I'm not a cop. I know that the "broken windows" concept kind of flamed out after some tried to make it out to be more than it was. However, common wisdom suggests that there is still something to it. If you start sliding into lawlessness with the little things, pretty quickly your police force will be swallowed up by it. Lawlessness builds on itself.
Dave T. (The California Desert)
@Jarren Never leave anything visible in your vehicle when you park it and go away, even if you lock it and it has an alarm (which is really just a scarecrow.) Everything goes in the trunk and if you have an SUV or CUV, buy a tonneau cover and always use it. Tint your windows as dark as the law allows in your jurisdiction. All this makes your vehicle not worth the trouble to most criminals, who are almost always after smash-and-grab kinda stuff. And consider driving a beater.
CC (Portland)
I second this and amend it a bit.Never ever under any circumstances leave anything of value visible in your car on the West Coast. I carry 50 lbs of camera gear through the grocery store weekly rather than leave it in my car for 5 min. Not worth it. Carry it or leave it at home.
Dave T. (The California Desert)
@CC Here's a little trick I use: Before you head out, put everything in the trunk (or under the tonneau cover) so that no one sees you doing it at the grocery store or wherever. (As I'm sure you know, not every New Seasons is in a great neighborhood.) Then, when you arrive, just get out, lock it and walk away, confident that everything is hidden and no one saw you hide it.
Dore (SF)
More license plate readers on police vehicles would be helpful. Part of the problem is that vehicle thieves do not spend much time in jail if caught, and being in possession of a stolen vehicle doesnt prove theft. Catalytic converters need their own serial numbers as well. It's almost impossible to prove theft right now because the stolen converters cant be linked to a reported theft.
l provo (st augustine)
@Dore I have seen cars in Portland driving with no plates. Actually the Pandemic was the reason for not addressing many of these issues.
Conservative Independent (Hard Left "Paradise")
Portland's progressive policies have lead to this.
Been There (Upstate)
@Conservative Independent What a pat answer. As the piece states, the thefts began during the pandemic and afterward due to supply chain problems. Thieves strip the cars for parts that are now hard to get and very expensive. That is not a Democrat or Republican issue.
Dave T. (The California Desert)
@Been There Catalytic converters and a/c compressors were being ripped off long before the pandemic.
Ella (NYC)
How strange. The police department has one of the highest budgets. Looks like cops don’t want to do their job anymore. At least here in NYC you don’t see them anymore. Seems they are hiding out on taxpayers’ $$$
Erik (Boise)
“Got any leads?” “Leads, yeah, sure. I'll just check with the boys down at the crime lab, they've got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts!”
Dave T. (The California Desert)
I lived in Beaverton, which is immediately adjacent to Portland, for a couple of years. Beaverton's very nice. Sporting goods company Nike is headquartered there. Money magazine named it a Top 20 small town in America. There's light rail to Portland and PDX and PDX is a top-notch airport. But the first winter I lived there was their worst in 40 years. Really, there was no sun from late October to early April. My physician insisted I take Vitamin D supplements. And despite the beautiful topography, some of the Portland metro people were easily the quirkiest - some would say oddest - people I've ever met. And no, they will not fluoridate their water. I kinda feel sorry for them. Permanently overshadowed by Seattle and not really wanting to be a boom town, anyway, they'd just as soon you go back to California, or wherever you came from. So, I sold my place (doubled my investment) and did just that.
Business as usual (Portland, OR)
@Dave T. I'm glad you could slide up here, buy suburban property, help create an artificial property price bubble, realize that a place noted for it's rainy winters has rain in the winter, double your money when selling up and then sliding back down to California. Your comment seems to indicate that you really don't understand anything about Portland or the folks that live here, other than there is little love for out of state property speculators.
Dave T. (The California Desert)
@Business as usual When I moved there, I meant to stay. It's gorgeous. I loved New Seasons, the Chester blackberries, the outstanding restaurants. I loved Progress Ridge and I also loved downtown Portland and Arlene Schnitzer Hall. I gave to the Oregon Symphony. But there's rain, and then there's a 40-year rain. When it turned to ice, Washington took pity on ODOT's refusal to sand roads and gave ODOT sand, anyway. I was still trapped in my house by ice for a week. I looked at the preceding 25 years of weather before I moved. On average, 3-4" of snow a year, not 20". And why is the water not fluoridated? That's just backwards, and the dentists know it. My hometown has been fluoridating the water since 1956. And in many states, Beaverton would long ago have been annexed into Portland, a city with a relatively small geographic footprint. So much for dissing the 'suburbs.' Many people were nice. But others were just...unsettling. You can rejoice that I left and won't return.
Martin c (California)
@Business as usual What's wrong with making money under the rules stipulated by someone else...if your a local you could've doubled your money without even leaving your familiar surroundings...stop crying start getting into the game $.
XOOOOX (pdx)
No one in Portland calls these folks "neighbors" anymore. We are past that. No one in Portland talks about the rot you describe without calling it what it is. Meth. Drugs. Addiction. The attempt to put a somewhat cheery spin on the sad decline of a once wonderful city is unwelcome. Please tell more truth and less lies. Use math and facts. No more sugar pills. Cut out the cancer. We are ready for it.
pam (kansas city)
@XOOOOX oh my goodness, I spent a long weekend in Portland in early summer 2022, and there was a lot of life on the streets. My airbnb host was very nice and seemed happy to be there. I walked miles, all over the city, at all hours, and didn't feel unsafe, though of course i saw homeless people as in every american city now. People were gardening, eating in resturants on the sidewalk. There was a parade with throngs of participants and observers. What are you taking about?!
Maria (SF)
This story feels a little too cheery relative to the reality of what’s happening in our west coast cities. It’s complete chaos out here folks. People don’t feel safe because it’s not safe. A population of drug tourists and the sellers who feed off them has taken over whole neighborhoods in our major cities. Crime is off the charts. The reporting is mostly off topic (“they’re your homeless neighbors displaced by your privilege”). Increasingly we’re seeing people taking this on themselves because our local governments are so wildly off-base with their proposed “solutions,” like “wellness centers” that are really just enabling support centers for active users to come and use. It’s utter madness. Oregon my elect a Republican for governor solely based on the situation I just described.
MN (Portland)
@Maria BINGO. We feel unsafe because it IS unsafe in the Portland metro area.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Maria That republican candidate has NO solutions. The Democrat, Tina Kopek does, and she proves it. She has proposed declaring a state of emergency over homelessness, but was voted down. And, the republican believes that you, as a woman, should not have agency over your own body. She has an A+ rating from the NRA. The republican candidate refused to support the state of emergency, which would have allowed for the clearing of camps, increased mental health placements, etc. She has NO alternative plans. Just disrupts.
Flâneuse ΔΔΔΔΔ (Portland, OR)
@Maria Sorry, the Republican governor may come about because of a third-party candidate, not because liberal Oregonians are suddenly deciding that the GOP is a better way to go. However it's true that some may vote third-party out of spite.
John (Mariposa)
The key sentence here is "The Portland Police Bureau said staffing challenges had prevented it from doing more to help solve car thefts. Last year, as the department struggled to retain and recruit officers and the city shrank the number of authorized positions, the department employed fewer sworn officers than at any point in the past 30 years,' Left out Population , Portland 30 years ago: 491,064 (1992) Population , Portland , now : 660,398 Left out: How "the department employed fewer sworn officers than at any point in the past 30 years," came about The word "Defund" does not appear in the article I
LTR (moraga ca)
@John Well said, John. It would have been helpful if the NYT acknowledged that the Portland Police Dept. is down about 240+ officers. Well done, "defenders". You got what you asked for.
Christie (Oregon)
@John Portland's police haven't been defunded and I hate the use of that word. When conservatives use it in relation to abortion they actually mean/want/intend to take all the money away from places like Planned Parenthood. When liberals/progressives use it in relation to police, they mean snag some money from police budgets to fund resources/services better suited to the tasks currently being handled by police. (E.g., like when police respond to reports of a person having a mental crisis walking down the middle of the street and end up shooting the person because the police aren't trained in how to deal with those types of situations.)
Susan Fitz (Portland)
@John We have not defunded police in any sense. We have just given their biggest budget ever and added mental health response teams to take some of the load off. If they aren't working stolen cars, what ARE they doing?
john keeley (beavercreek oregon)
Want to know how true blue portland will turn red , this is how , property crime . In town your kid cannot forget his bike in the yard by morning it will be gone . Don't bother to call the police about your car being stolen, they have shootings to investigate . Most every night shots fired and someone getting shot , because they were in the wrong place , outside . How long would you put up with such a mess before voting for the party of graft and theology just because they claim they will do something about it ?
Dave T. (The California Desert)
@john keele Never, because I can never, ever vote for nascent theocrats who think Donald Trump is America's savior. But I hear you and will not be surprised to see Oregon elect a Republican governor on November 8. Democrats, like any other political party, do better when they have to put up and communicate their best results and their opponents - mostly Republicans - are nipping at their heels come election day.
MN (Portland)
@john keeley not a shooting every other day. Four homicides in 24 hours in PDX just a month ago. Seriously, don't leave your house and get extra locks. PDX is NOT safe.
Andy (Palo Alto)
@john keeley Then keep voting Democrats and keep the status quote. Don’t complain.
JS (Portland, OR)
Yeah, Portland. A picture of our city government can be found in the dictionary under "non-functioning". The grass roots citizen group Adopt-One-Block cleans up the trash, civilian volunteers tackle the graffiti after doing their day jobs, we have websites for posting stolen bikes and folks go looking for them at the homeless camp chop shops. Etc. Many of us longtime Portlanders are hanging in there and doing for ourselves but it wears you down.
Chris (NYC)
I have family in the Portland area. I can attest that the city is truly in awful condition. It feels like something out of a dystopian novel where America has failed.
l provo (st augustine)
@Chris Portlandia. Chapter 2
Pruss (Pdx)
The Portland Police do their very best to let criminals know they can get away with lots of things. It’s their way of protesting after the community scolded them form racially targeted profiling and showing how they had ties to the Proud Boys and White Natioalist groups during the Pandemic protests. They say they don’t have enough recruits and can’t find enough people while publicizing how little they can do about theft giving criminals free reign over the city.
Colleen (Oregon)
@Pruss dude, they have fewer sworn officers than any point in the last 30 years, coupled with huge population growth, record homicides, and all this property crime. And a vocal minority of citizens want to defund them further. What solution do you propose?
Katherine (Portland, Oregon)
@Colleen what does it matter if there are slightly fewer cops, when they refuse to do their job? They literally *won't come* if you call them.
Alan Wright (Boston)
I don’t like the crime and social dysfunction entailed here but this is one consequence of building a car centric society where people - in order to participate in the economy or just simply function - too often have no choice but to own a car. Portland is such a bikable, walkable and public transit friendly city that most should be able to do without a car. Look at the cities in the Netherlands or Denmark - a small fraction of US car ownership. A car dependent society creates poverty and human and environmental damage.
Frank Walker (PDX)
That's the perception but not reality. In Portland most bicyclists have to share the road with increasingly large vehicles in poorly lit areas. The few bike paths that connect to other parts are full of intimidating campers. The public transit is decent but in reality one of the best parts of living in the PNW are the areas outside of the city, areas that are mostly inaccessible by transit (there's a bus that goes to the gorge, ski slopes and coast). Not to mention the constant flats from all of the debris.It is better than much of the country but it is far from the car free utopia it's often portrayed as. I sold my car before I moved here partly due to the fact it was easy to steal. One of the worst decisions I've made. kudos to the folks spending their free time helping others find their cars though. It's usually the working class folks, with little money or free time that have them stolen.
XOOOOX (pdx)
@Alan Wright Agreed, But bike theft here is probably worse than car theft. Tents filled with bikes parts. RV's stacked on the roof with stolen bikes. A DA that does nothing. We defunded the bike theft task force. Astoundingly stupid stuff like that. The cycling numbers have been trending down since 2014. Partly because activists equated cycling with gentrification and worked to dismantle or defund anything that had the word bike in it. Cycling wasn't the progress some so-called progressives were looking for. It's a shame. Because as you say much of the city does/did work well for people that don't need a car. The advent of E-bikes should have been a phase change for the city. Instead, we passed measure 110 and invited all the nations drug addicts over to steal stuff and dump motor oil in our wetlands. We've also had 2 unqualified city commissioners in a row in charge of the city transportation. It shows. On the positive side, the city is small enough that the problem is solvable. And there is still a memory of when things worked here.
David (Florida)
@Alan Wright If your hypothesis was correct that it’s due to needing cars then the ability to bicycle as you point out should mean lower crime and car theft not more. Instead it’s one of the easiest to use public transportation etc but highest rates of theft etc. They are not stealing the cars to use them. They are stealing them to strip catalytic converters and other valuable parts to sell for drugs. That’s why they end up stripped and burned out with homeless camping in them or using as a toilet.
No Namby Pamby (Seattle, Wa)
Caralytic converter theft can be stopped but there is no will to do so. Bicycle theft can be slowed with mandatory bike registration and other measures but As a Democrat I'm sad to say The Democratic party creates a culture of pathetic whining babies for whom responsibility does not and cannot exist. Smash n grab flash mobs are a direct result of accountability failure
Cars over trucks! (Vancouver, WA)
A neighbor's car was stolen. They reported it stolen. Several days later, another neighbor spotted it parked in an encampment that can only be described as Barter Town from the Mad Max "Beyond Thunderdome" movie. They were able to retrieve their car. I can't comment as to why there is seemingly a lack of investigative priority regarding stolen vehicles in our area but it doesn't take a lot of work to recognize that a vehicle with no license plates driving around is likely stolen. Those seem to be everywhere in Portland / Vancouver these days. Tim Crawford is doing great work.
PC (Aurora, CO)
I find it interesting that local, outraged citizens are doing this instead of insurance companies.
PC (Aurora, CO)
@PC, oops…sorry, insurance companies would rather raise prices until car insurance is generally unaffordable. At which point nobody has insurance. For what it’s worth insurance companies, with the right tools, have more than enough manpower and technology to ably assist police departments. If only they would…
John (CA)
@PC if in fact “insurance is generally unaffordable. At which point nobody has insurance” were to happen, it would mean that insurance companies would go out of business. If the purchases of policies and premium payments stop, revenue stops, and insurance companies would be forced to close their doors. Doubtful this this an their intention.
MLD (Portland)
Police in Portland are seriously understaffed, but there is also a “don’t call us” revenge program going on because so many Portland residents protested police violence. Defunding police is the worst brand for a reasonable idea. And we are diverting some police funds to address homelessness and crisis intervention. But that shift in priority is no excuse to grin in satisfaction when citizens call 911 or the non-emergency number and wait on hold for a half hour or get told, I’m sorry, but grand larceny is no longer a priority. Too many officers are mumbling “take that” under their breath, and it’s completely unacceptable. Meanwhile, they wave and shoot the breeze with proud boys at a rally. If you want respect in public service, you have to serve the public ethically and with self-discipline. Many Portland police do that, but too many do not.
eh (Pittsburgh)
@MLD Revenge? Or common sense? If you're a police officer, say with a kid in college and mother with hospital bills, in a dangerous situation and other police (and the police department) under intense scrutiny and criticism for misjudgements, do you (a) press in, risk your own life, and put yourself in a position where you might have to make a split second decision; or (b) think of your kids and back away slowly, call for backup, and maybe let the bad guys slip away? (Or can we no longer call them "bad guys" -- maybe disenfranchised scavengers out to borrow your car, or life?) Anyways, good luck out there.
john keeley (beavercreek oregon)
@MLD So hire better people and retrain the old ones , but don't disfund them , that is silly and childish . Gosh I wish I had a decent adult political party to vote for .
Michael (In Real America)
@MLD "don’t call us” revenge program' Good for them. Portland earned it. They deserve it. Turn it Red, let adults lead, and take it back. It was and still could be a nice place.
JeffM (San Francisco)
The article says “[t]he trend appears to be connected in part to the pandemic…” Please. This is the result of Portland’s “progressive” approach to crime, plain and simple. If the people of Portland prefer having their cars stolen and gutted, and then doing the leg work to find them again on their own… that is their choice, but it is a choice they have clearly made. There is no mystery here or external force like the pandemic making this happen. There are very easy, well proven fixes to all of this, including hiring more police, using them more aggressively, getting a more aggressive DA, and making sure criminals are arrested and then kept in jail so they face consequences and cannot keep committing crimes. Ideological progressive approach to criminal “justice” simply to do not work.
Steven Wolfson JD, PhD (Dallas TX)
You nailed it, JeffM. It’s called self-help. The whole purpose of the social contract, commonly referred to as government, is to eliminate self-help. You get what you vote for. SIGH!
john keeley (beavercreek oregon)
@JeffM The elephant in the room you didn't address is the homelessness . When you live in a nylon tent on the side of the highway there is nothing to do at night but a line of meth and jiggle locks . The politicians in portland have just put their heads in the sand and hoped it would all go away .
Conservative Independent (Hard Left "Paradise")
@JeffM Remember that the NYT is staffed with the sort of people who are very sympathetic to "defund the police" and similar ideas. It really shows in articles like this.
NF (Portland OR)
The New York Times should investigate the work slow down by the Portland Police Bureau. As someone in Portland and others have commented, it’s almost as if these police officers think that they’re above accountability and above the law. It’s not impossible to have safe neighborhoods and police who are accountable to the community they serve.
Chris (NYC)
There is no work slow down. They are seriously understaffed. This is just a made up conspiracy by people who called for defunding the police and now want to shed the responsibility of the results of such a movement.
john keeley (beavercreek oregon)
@NF So fund them adaquitly , so they can do their jobs properly .
Lexicron (Portland)
@john keeley Agree! This city's government seems to be on lockdown.
Tyler (Oregon)
I worked at an emergency department in Portland during the pandemic and quit because of how terrible the patient population was. We would have patients sneak out of the ER with IVs in their arms to go shoot up on the street. I had one guy try to pull this twice in one day! Cheap meth and fentanyl have made valuables like cars and trucks an easy target for a quick buck.
john keeley (beavercreek oregon)
@Tyler The drugs are the core problem , and addressing that will solve many of the other problems .
XOOOOX (pdx)
@Tyler There is a failure to grasp how destructive to society low cost deeply additive drugs are. When the best thing your brain has ever felt costs $1.20 and your biology is telling you, whatever that was, do it again. again. again. People break. Places break. And things that we used to think were ok. Like, let the hobos pick up aluminum cans so they can make a bit of money. We're hearing now that aluminum can collection and the few bucks that makes is enough to fund a fentanyl addiction. So this kinda good thing. (cans = cash) is now a bad thing. A can collection center at the grocery store is now a hub for addiction, crime and personal destruction. A fundamental rethink is needed.
pam (kansas city)
@XOOOOX please, bring your clever solutions!!!!!! I'm sure you will succeed in the first six months!
M.L. (Madison, WI)
Taking soup to a sick neighbor. Community gardens. Citizen science. Recycling. Voting. Reading to children who aren't your own. Paying your taxes. Citizen justice of the brand reported here. Just when I'm despairing of humanity, stories like this are a bracing reminder that people are the problem and the solution. We need to seek models of the later, tiny or mammoth, and pitch in. Bravo Mr. Crawford and your 'army'.
Ms. Klara (Hillsboro)
My car was stolen once and when I realized it wasn't a high priority with the police, I put up pictures of it all over town, saying "Have you seen this car?" A few days later, someone who had seen it reported it being parked at a specific place, and the police staged a stake-out and got the guy. And I got my car back. I support people doing what they can to locate their stolen vehicle. And then let the police take over.
Kristin H (New York, NY)
@Ms. Klara the police would not help with something like that in Seattle, and I don't think they would in Portland either. You are on your own and they make that very clear.
pam (kansas city)
@Kristin what? Hillsboro is right next to Portland. So I guess maybe not everyone is on their own in the PNW.
emily (PDX)
@pam Hillsboro IS right near Portland, but it's in Washington County. Different police dept., different city administration. A decade ago, it wasn't something you'd really notice. Now, the counties' livability has diverged dramatically. Multnomah and Washington County are adjacent and are connected by the red & blue line MAX trains. One area is not obviously wealthier than the other; they both have their share of wealthy, middle class and poor residents. In Beaverton (where Nike WHQ is), I can still walk or run on the local bike paths, even at night. I'm never harassed. The bike paths in Multnomah, in the waterfront area & on the Springwater Corridor are often blocked by campers' tents and trash (including, ironically, bike chop shops). I loved running from NE (Irvington/Grant area), where I lived, south to Laurelhurst Park & Hawthorne Blvd. Laurelhurst was a lovely park surrounded by beautiful old homes. It used to be full of families barbecuing in the summer; now it's lines with tent encampments. I'd run an 11-mile loop on Sunday mornings with a friend: north along the waterfront on the west side, across the Steel Bridge, meandering south on east side streets and bike paths, and back across the Sellwood Bridge. We NEVER ran into campers, or vagrants (maybe a few in Old Town). Never once saw a tent. There is NO WAY two woman could run that route safely now. The way the two counties have handled homelessness is really night and day.
KB (Seattle)
These thefts are not due to, “the pandemic.” Criminal and small gangs steal catalytic converters, sell them to junk yards and use the money to buy meth and fentanyl. Let’s be clear about why this is happening. Your story needs to be corrected.
Chris (NYC)
Throw in the fact that Multnomah county basically doesn’t punish these crimes and you have people stealing with no sense of risk.
JS (Portland, OR)
@KB Not sure you're right. The catalytic converters are sawed off right where the car sits. No need to take the whole car.
operadog (fb)
@KB I cannot understand how those who buy stolen catalytic converts (and other parts as well) get away with it. Is it that hard to investigate and prosecute the buyers when they so blatantly accept stolen goods? Like so many aspects of our crime problem, it seems we ought to be going at least as fiercely after those who profit as we go after those who commit.
Tar Heel (Wake)
Why doesn’t Portland keep statistics on car jackings?
Susan F (Portland)
All cities track motor vehicle theft as part of the FBI uniform crime report.
Col. Bernie Sanders (Burned out hellscape of Portland, Ore.)
Portland's system has become so deleted and broken that reasonable people are starting to rely on vigilantism, not just with recovering cars, but in other areas as well. I get it. I live here. I feel extraordinarily frustrated with the delay and lack of police response, and with political leaders completely incapable of addressing the issue. I don't know what the answer is, but I am afraid that recovering cars is only the beginning.
Trey (Richmond)
The answer is prosecuting criminals instead of refusing to do so under the guise of social justice.
AlexNB (California)
@Col. Bernie Sanders this is the will of the people, you get what you vote for
Andy (Palo Alto)
@Col. Bernie Sanders Answer: vote intelligently on November 8th. Election does have consequences.
DaveH (Texas)
A seriously dysfunctional local government, when basic services like law enforcement are so overstressed that people must rely on volunteer organizations instead. I imagine Portland advocates of defunding the police are less enthusiastic about the idea once their car has been stolen, possibly at gunpoint.
Dav Mar (Farmington, NM)
@DaveH "Defunding the police" is unarguably the worst political slogan ever. It should be noted that a poll of people supporting the concept showed that only 15% literally meant eliminating police forces. The creators of the idea originally meant transferring funds from police departments to other agencies to perform the many services that police are simply not the appropriate body to deal with, e.g., mentally ill citizens or students misbehaving in school. The concept has definite merit, just not a simple slogan that explains it.
Royal (Portland)
And now the police are blatantly not responding to crime as an equally infantile “You get what you wish for!” response to the “Defund” slogan. Until everyone stops having tantrums and playing a zero-sum game in Portland, nothing will improve. And the average citizen will continue paying the price.
DaveH (Texas)
@Dav Mar It might make sense to add funding for other services - but I doubt that a large portion of police resources are devoted to issues that don't really call for their presence. A violent mentally ill person still requires police attention, for instance. In any case, the growing city of Portland "employed fewer sworn officers than at any point in the past 30 years". That's consistent with the defunding concept as you describe it, assuming the resources went to other agencies. Possibly all the carjackings aren't being done by the mentally ill or unruly school children.
Kristin H (New York, NY)
I live in Seattle, where we are experiencing much the same. A friend had 2 cars stolen in about a year, just parked next to her house in a quiet residential neighborhood. A lot of people are moving out of the city because of this and similar crimes--it is sad to see our friends go. It is also hard to understand why stolen cars aren't even really treated as a crime. Why are we on our own? Crime seems out of control in a lot of our west coast cities.
Jeff M (Des Moines, Iowa)
@Kristin H At some point insurance costs will skyrocket thanks to having to replace so many.
No Namby Pamby (Seattle, Wa)
@Jeff M Spokane has been living with high rates of car theft for decades
JeffM (San Francisco)
But don’t worry, when the inevitable increases in insurance rates occur, the same progressive politicans who caused the crime problem will accuse of the insurance companies of price gouging rather than take responsibility for the natural result of their own failed policies.
See also