Portland/ Real Estate & Development
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Published on April 25, 2024
Multnomah County Bolsters Safety With New Lighting to Combat Fentanyl Crisis in Downtown PortlandSource: Google Street View

In response to the surge in fentanyl-related activities plaguing downtown Portland, Multnomah County has taken a pragmatic approach by installing new outdoor lighting around the Central Library in a bid to discourage drug dealing and usage. The move comes as local agencies scurry to find solutions to the recent spike in fentanyl dealings, especially since the library emerged as a new hotspot for such activities.

As reported by KATU, the county's facilities division director, Dan Zalkow, emphasized that the new lighting is part of a broader initiative aimed at improving safety and livability downtown. "Lighting has been shown to be a deterrent to criminal activity,” Zalkow stated. As local businesses also feel the impact, Scott Wheeler from 10th Avenue Liquor relayed his long-term observations to OregonLive, commenting, “I’ve seen the change with the onset of fentanyl and the effect it’s had on the community.”

The fentanyl emergency has prompted a suspension of bottle and can redemption services at local stores close to the library, as detailed by OregonLive, in a bid to alleviate some of the drug-related pressures faced in the area. In addition to lighting, the police have been active, with narcotics officers conducting missions near the library on two separate occasions in late March and early April.

Library spokesperson Shawn Cunningham informed OregonLive about the additional safety adjustments within the Central Library, including hiring a second social worker and maintaining unarmed security officers on patrol. "We have looked for ways that we can augment the library’s core services with things that will help the library manage a safe and welcoming environment,” Cunningham said. In a physical overhaul, bookshelves have been lowered to aid visibility, and security cameras have been ramped up.

The library, which reopened in February after a lengthy renovation, has incorporated recommendations from an independent security assessment. Staff have also been provided with Narcan and training to administer it, steps commended by the library system's deputy director Annie Lewis, who praised their frontline staff in a statement obtained by OregonLive: "I’m proud of our library staff who are on the front lines and are managing these spaces every day, many of whom care deeply." These actions aim to curtail the library's unintended role as a stage for the city’s escalating drug crisis.