This Week in the Mercury


Friday, June 7, 2013

Drug Zone Prosecutions Will Continue, For Now

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Portland's Drug Impact Areas are safe for the summer.

As the Mercury reported this week, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill has been weighing whether to pull staff from the program, which bans drug offenders from hanging around Portland's busiest drug zones.

The city has been footing the bill for dedicated prosecutor, who ensures certain drug offenders are given exclusion orders as part of their probation. But Mayor Charlie Hales pulled the plug on that funding, part of his efforts to close a $21.5 million funding shortfall.

Underhill told me this morning he's still deciding whether he'll continue to enforce the drug zones, but that an influx of summer interns has freed him up to think about it until the end of the summer.

"It's business as usual until the interns go back to school," he said. He'll return his attention to the matter in August.

Business owners are great fans of the impact areas, saying they've cut into the drug trade in areas like Old Town, where dealers have traditionally pooled. The policy is the ancestor of much-maligned Drug Exclusion Zones, which didn't require a conviction to enforce. The zones were killed in 2007 amid concerns they unfairly targeted minorities.

Since DIAs were established by then-Mayor Sam Adams in 2011, more than 1,000 exclusions have been issued, the DA's office says. Police had arrested 113 people for violating their exclusions as of December 31.

As he has with a host of other issues, Hales argued it's the county's responsibility to fund a prosecutor for the program. He told me he's confident Underhill will find the resources for continued support.

But when I told Underhill of the mayor's outlook this morning, he chose his words carefully.

"I'm glad he's confident," he said.

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