CLEAN & SAFE SIDEBAR - PPR #11 April 1997

Serving Business Interests--At Whose Expense?

Many of the current activities of police in Portland evidence a strategy designed to keep important social problems out of view: homeless sweeps, anti-camping ordinances, "Good Neighbor" agreements between the cops and businesses in dealing with homeless and other "undesirable" people. One recent manifestation of this overall trend has been the "Downtown Clean & Safe Program" of the Association for Portland Progress.

Note the Guide and Patrol Officer Activity table from the December "Clean & Safe" Newsletter. While activity in "Panhandling" and "Aggressive Behavior" categories decreased, activity in the "Transients" and "Suspicious Person" categories increased, the latter by more 400 percent. This shows a shift from policing certain kinds of activities to policing certain kinds of persons. Such a strategic change reveals the underlying function of such programs‹namely, the removal and control of "undesirables," targeting specifically the poor and the homeless, and surely impacting racial minorities and immigrants disproportionately. This same table also shows that "Drug Activity" has increased by more than 300% which may bear some relation to the fact that the Downtown Clean & Safe Program was advocating expansion of the Drug Free Zone, another ploy f or removing people the police deem suspect, or undesirable.

Several projects reported in the Clean & Safe newsletter serve similar ends. For example, the Downtown Clean & Safe group offers anti-shoplifting presentations, including "information on how to identify the char-acteristics of potential shoplifters." They also met with "the Ankeny Street Business Group, area residents, Portland Police, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the downtown neighborhood District Attorney's office to successfully address drug and prostitution activity." (Predictably, the "solution" took the form of increased patrols, with no mention of underlying social problems). And, the Clean & Safe group "assisted a group of Alder Street merchants in reducing problems related to a neighboring methadone clinic."

Such programs explicitly ally the police with downtown businesses, and encourage businesses to rely on a law-and-order approach to solving problems.

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