Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton reports that a transient homeless population has doubled in the last two years and moved into many areas in Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale, causing a spike in burglaries and thefts, and makeshift tent communities.
Staton delivered the message recently during the Mayor’s Roundtable in Fairview.
Put on by Mayor Mike Weatherby, the meeting at City Hall brought together local government officials, business owners, investors and community representatives interested in the future of Fairview.
Weatherby introduced Staton as someone he has endorsed and worked with for many years as a former corrections hearings officer for the county.
After the mayor welcomed the sheriff to his first Mayor’s Roundtable in Fairview, Staton spoke to the crowd of 30 some people.
Staton began by saying the Sheriff’s Office has gone through a significant transformation over the past four years, from how its law enforcement provides services to what community entities it engages with, to how it reports to and engages with cities and unincorporated areas it is responsible for.
“Each community has different problems,” he said. “We’ve got to adjust our law enforcement to deal with problems.”
Staton listed the overwhelming variety of enforcement the Sheriff’s Office covers from vehicle crash teams, SWAT teams, water rescue teams, hazmat, search and rescue, trail response, K9 and investigative units.
“We have a plane,” he said. Not paid for by taxpayers, but “seized through drug investigations overseas.”
The breadth of responsibility for the Sheriff’s Office also has broadened to involve such areas as schools, parks, child abuse investigations, human trafficking, prisons and the mentally ill, Staton said.
Transients cycle through East County
Staton said the spike in the transient homeless population in East County can be attributed to improved public transportation.
“What we have done is created a passage for the transient population from downtown Portland to follow the Springwater Trail and out to Marine Drive … and Thousand Acres,” he said.
Transients follow the loop and set up camps along the way, he said.
Deputies are shortly planning a “sweep” of Thousand Acres, where it is believed 600 to 650 transients have come through and possibly set up camp, he said. Department of Human Services, social security, law enforcement and work crews will be brought out to assist, Staton said.
Last year, teams, removed 89,000 pounds of debris.
Staton said transients’ movement is seasonal.
In the winter they’ll move back to downtown Portland where there is better access to services, he said.
Social service agencies are trying to determine who transients are, and whether individuals may be suffering from a mental illness or how many are transient youths.
“We haven’t determined where to move this population,” Staton said.
He is interested to hear from the community about the level of tolerance it has for allowing transients “to conduct the type of business they conduct in our community. These are the types of questions we have for this community and East County,” he said.
After decades of dealing with asbestos, mold and other maintenance problems at its Hansen Building in outer Northeast Portland, Staton said the Sheriff’s office is still looking for a building in East County to move into.
Possible sites have included the Toppan Photomask building, formerly known as the DuPont Photomask building, in Gresham; the OIA global headquarters in an industrial area of Gresham’s Wilkes East neighborhood; and a vacant parcel in Fairview just east of Target.
No decision has been made yet, Staton said.
“I’m looking for the best site.”
The Sheriff’s Office has run into problems with facilities not being designed to fit its staff and redesign costs being too expensive.
Staton wants at least a 58,000 square feet that can house the multiple agencies within its department.
Staton said he also is looking for a site in close proximity to human and social services as “law enforcement has come to rely on those entities.”
Staton said he is looking to partner with mayors and police chiefs in Gresham, Fairview and Troutdale.
“If we don’t work with these agencies, it’s going to cost more,” he said.
He said a new building in East County would be ideal and “a huge cost-saving all the way around.”
Due to budget restraints, Staton said the Sheriff’s office has “realigned manpower and eliminated all extracurricular law enforcement officers.”
At the same time, the sheriff said they have been in “consistent hiring mode for four years and continue to be,” as senior staff members and law enforcement personnel retire.
Employing just short of 800 people, Staton said over the next few years, the Sheriff’s Office will lose 42 percent of corrections staff and as much as 25 percent of law enforcement officers to retirement.
Investing in Fairview
Businessman Dean Hurford opened the mid-day meeting with an update from the Economic Development Advisory Committee, of which he is chairman, and City Councilor Dan Kreamier is council liaison.
Set up a couple of years ago and made up of local business people, the group meets every month to talk about how to maintain and promote business in Fairview.
It was announced that new or established business owners interested in joining the committee must apply to the city by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1.