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Portland City Council Votes to Increase Police Funding, Crack Down on Homeless Camping

Tents and tarps erected by homeless people in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, Calif., June 28, 2019. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

The Portland City Council approved a $44 million spending plan on Wednesday to bolster the city’s police budget and address the homeless population.

The plan allocates $7 million toward recruiting new police officers and unarmed public safety officers, hiring 25 retired police officers, and buying body cameras. The funds come as Portland has recorded over 70 homicides this year, breaking the previous all-time record of 66 murders in 1987.

Last year, the city council voted to decrease the police budget by $15 million in the wake of protests and riots following the police killing of George Floyd. Portland police spent over $12 million to respond to near-nightly riots in the summer and fall of 2020.

An additional $19 million is allocated toward increasing the number of beds at homeless shelters, expanding a city program that cleans refuse from unauthorized homeless encampments, and increase outreach by behavioral health workers toward the homeless population.

One of the items included in the spending plan is a $500,000 fund to install benches or other structures to prevent the homeless from setting up camp near city parks. Residents and local businesses have voiced frustration about the level of homelessness in the city.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners voted 5-0 to adopt the plan, which was adopted after residents testified to mounting levels of crime and trash.

“The issues we are facing are evident and Portlanders have been clear in their call for urgent action and improved results,” Wheeler said at the vote.

“Our houseless community needs resources and access to sanitary and stable shelter,” Wheeler said. “Portlanders in crisis need the right responder to show up and assist them in a reasonable timeframe. And small businesses need to know that sidewalks covered in trash, boarded windows, and vandalism will not be the norm as we strive to support our local economy.”

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