Portland’s public safety commissioner has ordered people not to call 911 unless they are at risk of death — as the Democratic-run city continues to struggle with rampant drug use and a slew of overdoses.
Commissioner Rene Gonzalez told locals that the emergency services hotline was swamped with people calling about citizens overdosing on fentanyl. Oregon decriminalized the use of hard drugs three years ago.
As a result, he urged people to only call 911 in the event of a life-or-death emergency.
Portland’s neighborhoods have been awash with crime, homelessness and drugs since the pandemic hit — and despite pouring money into relief initiatives, little change is happening on the city’s streets.
Commissioner Rene Gonzalez wrote today on
A group of drug users on NW Davis St in downtown Portland. The city has seen a spike in fentanyl overdose deaths since hard drug use was decriminalized in 2020
“Please do not call 911 except in the event of a life/death emergency or in the event of a crime (or the likelihood of the suspect being apprehended).”
The warning came hours after eight people snorting cocaine overdosed within just blocks of each other.
It’s clear that the cocaine they used was likely laced with fentanyl.
Portland Fire and Rescue confirmed eight people overdosed near Northwest Park Avenue and West Burnside Street just after 10 a.m. Monday.
Four people were rushed to hospital to be treated for the overdose.
For the remaining four, Narcan, an opioid overdose drug, was administered at the scene.
Portland’s neighborhoods have been overrun with crime, homelessness and drugs since the pandemic hit — and despite pouring money into relief initiatives, little change is happening on the city’s streets
According to the Portland Police Bureau, there were a total of 104 homicides in the city between August 2022 and August 2023. The majority took place in the city center.
During the same period, 529 arrests were made for ‘drug and narcotics’.
The number of homicides in Portland since January currently stands at 59.
In July, Portland opened its first sanctioned homeless park, and shocking images showed drug abuse and illegal camping still plaguing the streets.
Oregon’s largest city is in the midst of a devastating humanitarian crisis, with the number of homeless people increasing nearly 50 percent since 2019 to more than 5,000.
The very alert local government is pinning its hopes on reversing the trend on a series of expensive new shelters.
Harrowing images showed rows of shoddy tents taking over the streets, while residents who remained openly abused hard drugs on sidewalks.
The city’s push for formal homeless shelters seemed to have done little to end scenes like this, in which addicts openly abuse drugs on NW Broadway in downtown Portland.
Chris, 28, smokes crack cocaine in broad daylight on the streets of downtown Portland
Some homeless people are reluctant to move to city-sanctioned campsites because of drug bans, even though they can continue using drugs on the streets
About 2,000 homeless people in the city are sheltered, leaving about 3,000 people sleeping rough, according to official data.
The crisis has been fueled by the pandemic and a 2018 court ruling that meant cities in much of the West, including Portland, could not stop people from sleeping outdoors if no alternative shelter was available.
Public scenes of blatant drug abuse then accelerated after Oregon voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 that effectively decriminalized the possession of hard drugs like meth and opioids.
In an effort to end the crisis, Portland has approved $27 million to fund three temporary alternate sites, with plans for another three to be funded by Multnomah County, while passing a ban on day camping, set to take effect July 7 became.
And Portland residents are more than fed up as local and state politicians duke it out as recent polls show they want the problems resolved quickly.
A poll by People for Portland, a conservative advocacy group, shows that more than two-thirds of voters want to clean up the streets by forcing drug addicts into rehab.
Three-quarters of voters called the city’s homelessness “a disaster out of control.”