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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Crime Down, Urine Collection WAY UP in Old Town's Entertainment Zone

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Entertainment_Zone_.jpg

Mayor Charlie Hales will pitch a year-long extension of Old Town's controversial "entertainment district" to his city council colleagues later this month—and he'll have a bunch of numbers in tow.

With a summer's-worth of bar crawls and bachelorette parties now under its belt, the district—a bar-choked segment of NW 3rd and adjacent streets cordoned off on Friday and Saturday nights— has seen a 29 percent crime decrease from last year, cops say.

In an analysis released to the Mercury earlier today, the Portland Police Bureau reported 115 crimes during the weekend street closures from January to August. That compares to 163 during the same time period in 2012, and 175 in 2011.

Assaults, larcenies, vandalism and disorderly conduct offenses are all down, according to the analysis. Driving under the influence and other alcohol violations are slightly up. So are noise complaints. And police calls have skyrocketed, largely the result of police initiating their own cases.

The analysis is in-line with a similar report released in late March, roughly three months after then-Mayor Sam Adams instituted the district at the request of the police.

"Back in March, some people weren't sure if the numbers that we saw are really accurate or was just a fluke," said Chad Stover, a policy assistant in the mayor's office. "It adds validity."

Hales will tout the new findings October 16, in a push to extend the controversial street closures past their October 27 expiration date. The program has drawn at least one lawsuit, and has inspired grumbling from both Old Town bars and restaurants—which report decreased sales.

And the mayor will have some other numbers to tack on. The Portland Business Alliance, which won a 12-week, $16,000 contract with the city to clean the bar zone, today unveiled a series of stats on what that clean-up looks like.

In four weeks patrolling the zone, the PBA says workers collected 370 gallons of urine in new, "European-style" outdoor urinals. (The alliance and others made the case that urine would otherwise have been cascading off trees and walls and sidewalks, but I'm not convinced.) According to PBA staffer Lynnae Berg, workers also collected 10 pounds of cigarette butts, 63 bags of trash, 13 bits of drug paraphernalia and 121 "biohazards," which could involve vomit, condoms and feces.

Hales' pitch to city council will also involve a change in tone from past hearings on the entertainment zone. Earlier this year, the mayor proposed a "street festival" atmosphere in Old Town, complete with street improvements and food carts bar patrons might enjoy. But, as we've reported, those overtures have largely fallen flat.

Now, Stover says the mayor is only looking to extend the urinals, barricades and street cleaning services provided through the PBA contract. Earlier proposals to extend parking meter hours to fund the closures or set up an "assessment district" for businesses to pay in to have been tabled, Stover said.

He's looking at other funding options, but won't say what they are.

Meanwhile, the entertainment zone seems to have earned at least some buy-in among Old Town stakeholders. The Old Town Chinatown Community Association voted today to recommend a year-long extension, with the condition that an advisory group be established.

"The mayor's office wanted to extend this for two years and we pushed back for one year," said Howard Weiner, owner of Cal Skate Skateboards and chair of the group. "We really want to get to a larger discussion of how do we support all the bars and restaurants."

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