PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – It’s a problem that’s not secret to many business owners around the Eastport Plaza in Southeast Portland.
FOX 12 spoke to multiple local business owners and they all point to crime as the main reason many are leaving Southeast 82nd Avenue, including Walmart. Though a spokesperson for Walmart told FOX 12 last week there is no single reason for a decision to close a store, other business owners said they’re dealing with similar problems as Walmart: vandalism and shoplifting. Darrel Hanson has owned his muffler shop on Southeast 82nd avenue for nearly four decades. He said he’s watched the surrounding neighborhood decline in recent years.
“The whole 82nd area has changed in the last 20 years, especially in the last 10 years,” Hanson said. “Each year it keeps going down and down and down. More crime, garbage, homeless people, drugs and nobody wants to help.”
When he heard Walmart pulling out of his neighborhood a few blocks away, he wasn’t shocked.
“It hurts this community when they leave,” Hanson said. “A lot of people depend on that store.”
He blames the out-of-control crime in the area for Walmart’s exit. He said he’s watched fellow small businesses close and friends leave Southeast 82nd Avenue.
“I have a lot of friends, a lot of friends I deal with before said, ‘I’m leaving Portland.’ Well, they left,” Hanson said. “That’s like Walmart, they left.”
The Eastport Plaza sits in the Lents Neighborhood in Southeast Portland. According to Portland Police crime data, between Jan. 2022 and 2023, there were 147 burglaries, 634 personal property thefts, 424 car thefts, 53 robberies, and three stolen property offenses. This is just what’s reported to the police. Hanson said some fellow business owners don’t even call when something happens to their property.
An example can be seen on the north side of the Eastport Plaza. The U.S. Post Office has every window covered with plywood to hide broken windows. Those who use the post office told FOX 12 it’s been like that for weeks. A spokesperson for the United States Postal Service said on Monday they were sending out a contractor to get measurements to replace the windows. Hanson said the vandalism at the post office is just one case after months of ongoing property crime.
“We’re basically going through hell and we’re going through really sad times,” Hanson said. “We have no support, no backup.”
Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez represents the Lents neighborhood. He sent FOX 12 a statement in response to Walmart closing up shop in Portland and the increase in crime around the Eastport Plaza.
“While it’s critical to support local, small businesses, big box retailers offer an affordable option for working-class families throughout the city, including East Portland. Rising crime and an inhospitable business climate have been too tough on Portland businesses, and we need to work harder and smarter as a city to keep employers and shopping options from leaving.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also responded to FOX 12′s request for comment, sending this statement:
“As they indicated to their comments to media, Walmart’s decision to close the two stores was based on poor overall business performance.
Mayor Wheeler and his team regularly work with local businesses to find ways we can best support them as they navigate through the uncertain economy and rising crime. The role of local, small businesses are integral to our economy and the Mayor is committed to ensuring we retain our businesses and help them succeed.
Economic prosperity and public safety continue to be top priorities for the Mayor–particularly re-staffing the Portland Police Bureau. Mayor Wheeler and Police Chief Lovell are working to hire 300 police officers and public safety specialists in three years, an effort that is well underway with over 100 newly hired personnel. In the FY22-23 budget, Mayor Wheeler expanded 311′s hours to 24/7 coverage and increased staffing for the Bureau of Emergency Communication (BOEC) to reduce 911 wait times.
We understand that local businesses often must make a choice whether to pay out of pocket or file a claim with their insurance after a break-in. For this reason, we’ve worked to increase funding for Business Repair Grants through Prosper Portland and recently held a Retail Safety Summit to strategize with local business leaders and loss prevention specialists on the retail theft crisis. We are also working with interested property owners to streamline the permitting process to add enhanced lighting to storefronts, which can help deter nighttime break-ins.”
Hanson said he’s hoping something changes in the neighborhood surrounding his business, that hope in the local business community is running out.
“If you go all along down here and talk to many people that have been here for a while, they’ll tell you it’s sad,” Hanson said. “They get mad, but what can you do? They get disgusted but then they sit down and say ‘I’m really sad for Portland.’”
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