With little help from the city, Portland companies control the wave of window breaks and break-ins

Hanh Truong arrived at Fujiyama Sushi Bar & Grill early on January 28th and found the restaurant floor covered with broken glass.

Security footage showed someone driving to the Southeast 82nd Avenue sushi bar before throwing a stone through the window. The same person threw another stone through the window of the nail parlor next door before driving away, said Truong, the Fujiyama store manager.

For a restaurant that has already weathered the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the damage was another major blow.

Truong had to close the restaurant for half a day to clean up the damage and to throw away any food that might have been contaminated by broken glass. She said replacing the window will cost $ 1,000, a bill the restaurant will pay out of pocket because the deductible is too high to make an insurance claim worthwhile.

“We’re staying afloat, but that’s definitely going to hurt things,” said Truong. “It is very stressful.”

The Portland Police Bureau says its staff are insufficient to respond to a surge in break-ins and vandalism across the city. Some victims say that some of the attacks are racially motivated.

A city fund set up last year to finance repairs is running out of money and there are no immediate plans to replenish it. Corporations have to open their own wallets to repair the damage.

“The city needs to step up and figure out how it can help businesses,” said Ahmed Abraibesh, CEO of the local shoe chain Clogs-N-More, which has suffered expensive vandalism and a separate break-in in recent months.

LIMITED SUPPORT

The Portland Police Bureau doesn’t track window smashing as its own crime, but companies across Portland and local glass repair companies say there has been a notable surge in the past year, adding to the small business owners trying to survive the pandemic Causes stress.

Crimes of breaking windows can fall into several categories, including property damage, vandalism, criminal mischief, and break-ins. Portland has seen a surge in reports of vandalism and break-ins since the coronavirus pandemic began last March.

Burglaries across the city increased nearly 32%, while vandalism increased nearly 43% from March to December 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Portland has offered few solutions to prevent the damage, nor has it provided companies with the financial assistance many need to tear down boards and move on.

The city set up a $ 550,000 fund last fall to help businesses repair broken windows and other damage. Before the funds were used up, the money went to about 150 companies across town, according to Jim Middaugh, a spokesman for Mayor Ted Wheeler.

However, there is no similar corporate financial support from the city that has been targeted recently.

“We don’t have any brand new initiatives,” said Middaugh. “But there is an ongoing discussion about how we can provide extra support to companies in trouble, including those who have suffered vandalism.”

In mid-January, Tim Becker, a spokesman for Wheeler’s office, said the police were in the process of increasing the number of patrolmen, hoping to have 365 available over the next few months.

A racist motive?

Companies say they continued to be targeted this year, although protests that consumed the city last summer and sometimes led to rampant vandalism have subsided.

While some business owners have reported being broken into after their windows were broken, others said the damage to their storefronts appeared randomly. In other cases, smashing windows felt deliberate.

In the last week of January, more than a dozen companies in the Jade District, most of which were Asian-owned, had thrown stones through windows or were otherwise affected, according to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.

The damage comes at a time when reports of anti-Asian incidents are increasing, both locally and in other parts of the country. According to Allie Yee, a spokeswoman for the network, this pandemic-related racism dates back to the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Oregon, the Department of Justice received 77 reports of bias or hatred against Asian Americans between March and January, with the vast majority of those reports coming from Multnomah County.

“I hate to say it was racism, but I can’t help but think so because a dozen other companies were involved,” said Truong, the manager of the Fujiyama sushi restaurant, which was hit in January. “It felt very deliberate – to drive up, throw a stone through the window, and drive away.”

Oregon’s Asia-Pacific-American network is engaging its own funding pool, which includes COVID-19 aid from Portland and Multnomah Counties, to help Jade District businesses repair the damage. Truong said Fujiyama is trying to get more information from the group about what support might be available.

REPEATED DAMAGE

A month after Clogs-N-More opened a new location in the Montavilla neighborhood last October, someone threw a rock through the front door window and broke the door frame, but didn’t take much out of the store. Abraibesh, the small chain’s CEO, paid several thousand dollars to repair the door and hoped business could continue after the incident.

However, on the first weekend of February, windows were broken at several companies along Southeast Stark Street in the Montavilla neighborhood, including Clogs-N-More. This time the damage was considerable.

Not only did burglars throw a stone through the shop’s window, Abraibesh said they stole about 100 pairs of shoes and forced the shop to temporarily close. Abraibesh said it would cost him about $ 5,000 to fix the door and replace the stolen inventory, about the same cost as his deductible, so he’ll pay the bill out of pocket.

While planning to keep his Montavilla location for the time being, Abraibesh said he will install an iron security gate, a security measure that more and more companies in Portland are taking. If the deal is targeted again, they will likely have to close.

“When you get to a point where you get hit every two months and lose all this money and have to close the store (temporarily), it’s just like, ‘How can you do it?'” Abraibesh said. “These people don’t think. They think if you have a business you are rich. They don’t know it’s a day to day struggle, you can barely pay the rent. “

The break-in at Clogs-N-More happened the same weekend a 28-year-old man was arrested in the Lloyd District after allegedly using a hammer to break the windows of at least five companies and a car along a 12-block stretch had on Northeast Broadway.

Pure Salon and Spa was one of the companies whose window was broken. The incident happened just a week after someone used a crowbar to get through the back door of the salon before breaking the front desk and several terrariums. A few months earlier, a person kicked the store’s front door which, according to owner Molly Zollner, cost about $ 600 to repair.

Zollner said she put plywood over her window after the last incident, but the property manager would pay for the repairs. She said it was a priority for the company to get the boards down as soon as possible so it could provide a welcoming atmosphere for its customers.

Zollner also decides to keep their doors locked during business hours and only open them to customers who knock.

“It’s so hard to build a business,” said Zollner. “I put my soul into it. It is very hurtful when someone arbitrarily destroys what you are trying to do. “

– Jamie Goldberg | jgoldberg@oregonian.com | @ Jamiebgoldberg




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